Sunday, April 26, 2015

Planting Pintos

Weather: Mornings were cool, afternoons were warm, then turned windy and cloudy; wind and rain today while I was waiting for the internet provider to come back up.

What’s blooming in the area: Some white-flowered tree blossoms survived last week’s cold; lilacs, bearded iris, moss phlox.

Beyond the walls and fences: Alfilerillo, western stickseed, purple and tansy mustards, hoary cress, common and local dandelions; cottonwoods and Virginia creeper leafing, trees of heaven releafing after freeze.

In my yard: Tulips, grape hyacinth, vinca.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Small birds, ants.

Weekly update: It’s time to think about planting seeds, but they don’t all go in at once. You have to learn some, like larkspur, like cold soil and others, like pinto beans, rot away if the ground isn’t warm enough to germinate them.

Garden guides say you have to innoculate them and their roots produce their own nitrogen. That’s because Phaseolus vulgaris is a legume and that’s true of most legumes.

Oscar and Ethel Allen looked closely at their nodules and found Rhizobium phaseoli are common in the soil and thus beans are "highly receptive to appropriate inocula." However, most of the bacteria that grow on the roots are "functionally deficient in nitrogen fixation."

Farmers don’t like such differences. Their success often depends on their ability to transfer the tools and methods learned with one crop to another.

During World War I, farmers in the Estancia Valley were growing pinto beans commercially. At that time, local farmers plowed the land into furrows that they next flood irrigated. When the soil dried enough, they took a small plow over the ground. A man or boy followed dropping beans every 10" in the furrows. They replowed twice, then planted beans again. Finally they pulled a drag to level the ground and cover any still exposed beans.

That was a lot of work. The new comers prepared the fields and planted the seeds with drills, then irrigated. The water often formed a hard crust that had to be broken. Then weeds took advantage, and field had to be constantly hoed. Then it needed more irrigation.

Fabian Garcia, director of the State Agricultural Experiment Station, noted, in many cases, the old way was better. In both cases, beans were hand picked, which left dead plants in the field to hold the soil during winter and spring winds.

New Mexico and Colorado were still major producers of pinto beans after World War II. Today, North Dakota and Nebraska are the largest commercial growers. As the bean moved out of the arid southwest, other farmers added it to their rotations using their existing methods.

Today, Sara Schumacher and Michael Boland say:

"Beans are a high-cost, irrigated crop compared to sunflowers and wheat. Beans require two to three fungicide treatments to combat disease, are prone to iron deficiency, leave little crop residue to inhibit postharvest erosion and require irrigation. Multiple irrigation applications may also lead to the fungus problem."

Their comments appear on the website of Iowa State University’s Agricultural Marketing Research Center. They aren’t interested in how to grow dry land beans, but how to sell dry beans. They group pinto beans with black beans grown in Michigan, kidney beans from Minnesota, and Great Northern navy beans produced in Nebraska. After all, they’re all types of Phaseolus vulgaris.

As their observations on growing indicate, they may be interchangeable in elevators and soup mixes, but they are not interchangeable in the ground. San Miguel County farmers had none of those problems, when they handled irrigation properly.

Allen, O. N. and Ethel K. The Leguminosae, 1981.

Garcia, Fabian. "Bean Culture," " The New Mexico Farm Courier, September 1916.

Gonzalez, M. R. "Queries on the New Mexico Pinto Bean," The New Mexico Farm Courier, June 1916.

Mimms, Otho Leroy and William John Zaumeyer. Growing Dry Beans in the Western States, 1947.

Schumacher, Sara and Michael Boland. "Dry Edible Bean Profile," October 2005, updated September 2011 by Diane Huntrods, Iowa State University Agricultural Marketing Research Center website.

1. Pinto Beans.

2. Phaseolus vulgaris, including Great Northern and smaller navy beans, black beans, various colors of kidney beans, and pinto beans.

3. House brand 16 bean soup mix contains Great Northern beans, navy beans, small white beans, pinto beans, black beans, light red kidney beans, small red beans, pink beans, cranberry beans, large lima beans, baby lima beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, yellow split peas, green split peas, and green whole peas.

Instructions: soak for at least 8 hours, then cook for 90 to 120 minutes. Note: differences in altitude, hardness of water and product moisture may change the suggested cook time. They overlook the fact black beans should soak for 3 hours and cook for 35-45 minutes, navy beans soak for 2 hours and cook for 35-45 minutes, red kidney beans soak for 4-5 hours and cook for 60-75 minutes, pinto beans soak for 3-4 hours and cook for 45-60 minutes. Soaked split peas cook in 40 minutes and unsoaked lentils in 45 minutes.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spring Winds

Weather: High winds Wednesday, temperatures in low 20s Friday, snow yesterday, no apple flowers today.

What’s blooming in the area: Lilacs protected by the river’s warmer atmosphere, moss phlox.

Beyond the walls and fences: Alfilerillo, western stickseed, purple and tansy mustards, dandelion.

In my yard: Grape hyacinth, vinca.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Small birds, ants.

Weekly update: Wind is invisible. You can photograph snow, and sometimes capture rain. But all you can record with wind is its effect.

It has no name. The King James Bible translates the Hebrew ruah as "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" in Genesis 2:1. The Roman Catholic translators at Douay College made it "the spirit of God moved over the waters."

Ephraim Speiser says, "spirit" is a secondary meaning. It should read: "an awesome wind sweeping over the water." The Jicarilla Apache were closer when they said "there was no ground, no earth - nothing but Darkness, Water, and Cyclone" in the beginning.

The US Weather Bureau has retreated from any attempt at nomenclature. Ever since people in Phoenix complained when a 2011 dust storm was called a haboob, we’ve had "wind events."

Todd Shoemake at least admits we have more strong winds in the spring. He looked over the records for Albuquerque and found most of theirs come from the east. Those have a name: canyon winds.

He noted Santa Fé’s strongest winds come in February and March between 5 pm and midnight. But, they have no name.

Something with no name demands no explanation. Wind is the movement of air passing from a high pressure area to a low. When the earth becomes warmer than the atmosphere above, breezes mark the rise of heated air and its replacement with cold.

This happens every day as the sun heats the earth. That’s why winds begin in the afternoon and die down in the evening.  The weather service calls this mixing and talks about vent rates. When you have good mixing you have wind. When vent rates are bad, noxious gases don’t escape in the night and air is foul.

Scientists from Germany and India have found the spring equinox is the critical factor in 27-month cycles controlled by the alternation of east and west winds at the equator. The equinox marks the time when the earth is aligned directly with the center of the sun and the sun is directly over the equator.

Until that time, the part of the earth near the equator has been warming while parts nearer the poles have remained cold. The critical area is the atmospheric layer some 53 miles above the earth, the thermosphere. The lag is warming creates disparities that must be equalized.

Last year the winds started around February 19 and lasted until the end of June. This year afternoon temperatures were in the low 60s the first of March, the high 60s by March 22, and the low 70s by March 28. The winds didn’t begin until the second of April when they reached 41 mph in Santa Fé.

We’re in the off year in the two year cycle. Don’t expect scientists to give these spring winds a name like Mariah. They call them MSEE for Mesospheric Spring Equinox Enhancements.

Douay College. The Holy Bible, Holy Family edition of the Catholic Bible, Old Testament in the Douay-Calloner text, edited by John P. O’Connell, 1950. Sons of the Holy Family are responsible for the churches in Santa Cruz and Chimayó. Genesis 1:2.

James I. The Holy Bible, conformable to that edition of 1611, commonly known as the authorized or King James version, The World Publishing Company, nd. Genesis 1:2.

Kumar, G. Kishore, K. Kishore Kumar, W. Singer, C. Zülicke, S. Gurubaran, G. Baumgarten, G. Ramkumar, S. Sathishkumar, and M. Rapp. "Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere Zonal Wind Variations over Low Latitudes: Relation to Local Stratospheric Zonal Winds and Global Circulation Anomalies," Journal of Geophysical Research 119:5913–5927:2014.

Opler, Morris Edward. Myths and Tales of the Jicarilla Apache Indians, 1938. His sources were Cevero Caramillo, John Chopari, Alasco Tisnado, and Juan Julian.

Shoemake, Todd. "A Climatology of High Wind Warning Events for Northern and Central New Mexico: 1976-2005," 2010, available on-line. Albuquerque also has west winds, but they aren’t as significant.

Speiser, E. A. Genesis, 1964.

Photographs: Trees taken in my yard during summer winds; others taken in area during normal winds about 15 mph on 17 April 2015.

1. Globe willow, 24 July 2013.

2. Black locust, 28 June 2012.

3. Miniature windmill.

4. Even miniatures need to be well-anchored.

5. This one might even serve a function.

6. This is a replacements for one blown apart.

7. The stand on the older one is used to hold hoses.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Arthur Upfield

Weather: Winds some afternoons and evenings blew Russian thistles into the yard, last rain 3/19.

What’s blooming in the area: First apples, cherry, peach, crab apple, forsythia, daffodils, moss phlox; lilacs almost open.

Beyond the walls and fences: Alfilerillo, western stickseed, dandelion.

In my yard: Sand cherry, purple leaf sand cherry, Siberian pea, vinca.

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, pansy.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: House finches are back, early butterflies.

Weekly update: Character, plot, setting. You know the items found in every drama. You learned them in eighth grade. Some mystery writers like Agatha Christie focus on how individuals respond to pressure. Others, like Ngaio Marsh, create intricate mechanisms that suggest only one person can be guilty. Only Arthur Upfield features the landscape as an active agent.

In the novel I was reading this past week, Winds of Evil, late spring winds generate static electricity that send a man into a murderous frenzy. During the day the sun heats the sand until it rises to turn everything red. Don’t expect logic. Imagine reading it like I did this past week with winds howling outside the house. You gauge the speed by watching trees move during the day, but once the sun goes down, you’re trapped in a black envelope of sound.

Upfield’s detective is an Australian half-caste named Bony. In many stories he solves the case by tracking faint imprints on sand or reading a page from the bush. In some later adventures, after the author was committed to producing books on contract regardless of inspiration, the technique shows. Find some unusual landscape, set the detective stalking the villain, and add an ending that somehow explains it.

In the best, though, the Boys’ Own style narrative takes over. In The Bushman Who Came Back, a dry lake is turned to mush as water seeps under from a storm up stream. Bony creeps from dry spot to dry spot wearing boards like snowshoes to rescue a kidnapped child.

A monsoon crashes a plane in Wings above Diamantina. The waters turn a dry river bed into a mile wide river the hero must swim to take an antidote for a native poison to a doctor standing helpless by a dying woman. The villain is trapped like a fowl roosting in a tree above the raging waters.

When I first read these books years ago, I was living in Michigan. They were a pleasant read. Rereading them after several decades in New Mexico was a recapitulation of the worse moments in outdoor living.

We may not have Lake Eyre, but we have everything else. In Death of a Swagman, the wind has built a twelve-mile long dune of sand hundreds of feet high. In Winds of Evil, Bony disguises himself as a ranch hand who clears buck brush and straw trapped by a fence. In Mr. Jelly’s Business, he repairs a fence designed to keep out rabbits and watches ants.

Then, night falls. The rain and wind wipe away clues. The familiar turns surreal. The ordinary morphs into shapeless malevolence. The landscape ceases to be some quaint inspiration for Georgia O’Keefe. It becomes a prima dona controlling the lives of all who come within its orbit.

Photographs: Other places, people have tulips and daffodils in spring. Here we have weeds, or, if you prefer, wild flowers and roadside plants. Photographs all taken in the area Thursday, 9 April 2015.

1. Hoary cress.
2. Alfilerillo.
3. Western stickseed.
4. Some yellow-flowered mustard.
5. Purple mustard.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter Buds

Weather: Last rain 3/19, but there’s water in the ground about 3" down.

What’s blooming in the area: Cherry, peach, crab apple, purple leaf plum, forsythia, daffodils; daylilies and peonies up; apples leafing.

Beyond the walls and fences: Alfilerillo, western stickseed, purple mustard, dandelion.

In my yard: Sand cherry, moss phlox; flower buds on purple leaf sand cherry, Siberian pea.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Small birds, small black ants, peach trees buzzing with bees.

Weekly update: The week before Easter, the local groceries and drug stores have lilies, tulips and hyacinths for sale. I always look for new leaves. They may not be as pretty or as fragrant, but they are the best sign on resurrection Sunday.

Some I visit are the trees I put in two years ago. Last year’s leaves were proof they could make it. Now they’re in the consolidation phase when they put out leaves and a few flowers, but haven’t started branching.

There are some I bought years ago. While they were sitting on the porch, it snowed. They died back from the ice on their stems, and have taken years to recover. The globe willow only began to expand when I expanded the driveway so it has gravel on two sides to capture water.

Some have done very well, but their flowers are erratic. Last year, heat destroyed the lilacs in spring.

The same happened to the sweet peas in the summer. They died back, and never recovered.

While I get some pleasure from the recoveries of climate casualties, I’m happier when I see the ones who’ve done so well over the years haven’t succumb to age or disease.

Photographs: All taken in my yard on Easter morning, 5 April 2014.
1. Siberian pea, which blooms reliably and has quietly gotten taller.

2. Caryopteris, which has spread into a copse that’s covered with flowers in summer.

3. Stella cherry now has survived two summers and two winters.

4. Globe willow died back to the roots, and has taken years to turn into a shrub. The ones in the village thrive.

5. Lilacs have spread from suckers, but their flowers sometimes die from frost, sometimes from heat. The ones in the village usually bloom, but even they didn’t last year.

6. Sweet peas went into remission last summer, but seem to be coming back. The ones in the village do well, but haven’t emerged yet this year.

7. Spirea took a while to get established, but now blooms every year; if the spring is bad, the flowers open one at a time in the summer. Most other plants in the area have not survived, or don’t do as well as mine.

8. Peonies have taken a long time to take hold, and the flowers nearly always are destroyed by something: frost, heat, deformity. The ones in the village always do well.