Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Rest In Peace
Weather: Rain Friday night.
What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, rose of Sharon, datura, rose purple morning glory, bouncing Bess, purple garden phlox, sweet pea, Russian sage, zinnia, cultivated sunflowers.
Beyond the walls and fences: Velvetweed, buffalo gourd, yellow evening primrose, purple mat flower, pink and white bindweed, Queen Anne’s lace, goat’s head, leatherleaf globemallow, pigweed, horseweed, wild lettuce, Hopi tea, golden rod, plains paper flowers, áñil del muerto, tahoka daisy, golden hairy asters, black grama grass.
In my yard, looking east: Black locust, large-flowered soapwort, garlic chives, Jupiter’s beard, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, Maximilian sunflowers, cut leaf coneflower. Hollyhocks are so tall they can be seen from inside the house.
Looking south: Betty Prior, Fairy, rugosa and miniature roses.
Looking west: Caryopteris, Johnson’s Blue geranium, catmint, calamintha, David phlox, ladybells, Mönch aster, purple coneflower.
Looking north: Yellow potentilla, golden spur columbine, Mexican hat, black-eyed Susan, chocolate flower, blanket flower, anthemis, coreopsis.
In the open, along the drive: Buddleia, white yarrow.
Bedding plants: Snapdragon, sweet alyssum, blue salvia, moss rose, French marigold, gazania.
Seeds: Heavenly Blue morning glories, larkspur, reseeded Sensation cosmos from last year’s plants, yellow cosmos, bachelor buttons.
Animal sightings: Rabbit, geckos, small birds, bees, grasshoppers, large and small black ants.
Weekly update: One of my neighbors died this week, the one who built the berm that protects my place from flooding.
I only talked with Joe once, soon after I moved here. But even before, I knew something about him.
He had a large mound in front of his house where he raised dahlias. There also were yellow iris, which he said he took from a cemetery, and a tall shade tree.
We sometimes would speak when he was heading to the prairie for a walk. A few times we talked about plants, perhaps because I was working in the yard when we met this way.
I remember one time, probably 1995. The grasshoppers were especially bad. He said the only things they hadn’t eaten in his garden were the tomatoes and cucumbers.
I thought maybe the fact tomatoes were members of the nightshade family not only made them invulnerable but repellant. I immediately went into town and bought whatever plants remained in the local hardware stores to plant around the edges of my garden.
It didn’t work, of course, and the tomatoes never prospered. However, for years I planted them out of a superstitious hope.
Another time his wife was walking out to the prairie. It must have been 2008, the only year my peach bore fruit. She wondered what I was going to go with all the peaches.
Soon after hornets moved in and closed the path by the tree. I picked all the green fruit and threw it out. I’m sure she’d have found a better use if it had been allowed to ripen.
At the time she said their tree had been killed by gophers. Years later when I walked the prairie behind their house, I noticed the remains of a large tree. I wondered if it had been the peach, though it seemed too large.
A small callery pear grew in its stead. It, at least, would never overshadow the house.
The tree in front was a catalpa, which Joe cut back severely. He also kept his apricots topped off.
I lost touch with his garden after he surrounded his land with a fence. I’m told the bark board came from a sawmill run by this daughter-in-law’s brother. A few years back, they added solar lights to the fence.
The last time I saw the mound, it was bare dirt with some planters at the top nurturing marigolds.
It isn’t simply a perverse tunnel vision that limits my memories to his plants. The on-line obituary only mentioned his survivors. The only biographical detail it gave was his birth place in 1940.
He came from El Llano, a small settlement near the boundary between the Santa Cruz and San Juan land grants. The houses were clustered around a small church, all close to the Llano ditch that snaked along the base of the Santa Cruz badlands.
The obituary didn’t mention military service. He would have been 18 in 1958, before Vietnam. In those years, young men who didn’t go to college often enlisted to avoid being drafted.
The first thing I remember he said was that he worked for the ranch that once included the land where I lived. With the owner’s permission, he put his trailer on the edge of the ranch near an abandoned road bed.
It began as a simply double wide, but over the years the structure was hidden behind a brick façade.
He later drove a gravel hauler for the local quarry. Joe told me, he always said he would walk to Chimayó when he paid off his rig, which he did. He drove until his eyes got bad, then quit.
A life lived with family and plants, and a few animals. They protected the quail and fed hummingbirds. Their apricot is the only tree in the area to have nests.
He was buried yesterday by his church.
1. Joe’s apricot last spring, 30 March 2013.
2. Joe’s apricot, 7 November 2010. My intermediate neighbor built his own fence of the same bark board, which is in front of the tree in this view.
3. Joe’s front yard, early 1990s. The enclosed brown area under the tree is the mound garden.
4. Cherry tomatoes growing with Florence bachelor buttons in my yard, 1997. I planted the tomatoes because of Joe.
5. Callery pear behind Joe’s house with remains of larger tree, 28 March 2012. The berm is in front and at an angle to deflect water.
6. Catalpa in front of Joe’s house, 7 June 2012.
7. Marigolds in Joe’s mound bed, 17 August 2008.
8. Nests in Joe’s apricot, 5 December 2010.
9. Solar lights on Joe’s fence, 24 August 2014; shadows of the catalpa and an apricot are just visible in the shadows.