Another Random Recap

Once again, the only thing I have to share is the random collection of photos that have collected on my phone. 2016-06-24 19.25.10As you can see, Dora, Lemmy and Iris have become horribly spoiled. Technically, there’s a no chickens on the table rule, however, somehow, it’s suddenly not being enforced. I really need to rectify that situation. This photo was taken last week, when they were 12 weeks old, and you can see they are looking quite grown up. Their voices are changing- no more peeping and squeaking. Instead, there’s lots of croaking while they hone their grown up cluck.

I’m still enjoying the front yard totem: 2016-07-06 10.04.11This time of year, breakfast and lunch are usually enjoyed on the cool, north-facing, front porch, and the popularity of the totem ensures there’s lots of mealtime entertainment. And finally, it’s truly summer. The first small tomatoes started ripening last week.2016-06-24 18.17.04As is typical for the Less is More garden, the pretty pink Nichols Heirloom tomatoes have been the first to ripen, with the Amy’s Apricot and Punta Banda following close behind.

The Stalk Blooms

The amazing agave stalk started to bloom last week:PKS_3581 It is host to a perpetual cloud of bees – lots of fun to watch from the front porch. I really need to set up the camera on a tripod with a longer lens to capture the action, but for now, here’s a quick snap of the blooms:PKS_3580

Odds and Ends

I’ve been meaning to post on various topics for the past 10 days, but things are so hectic here I haven’t had a chance to pull out the camera to snap any decent shots. So, instead, here’s an update based on whatever photos I can find on my phone.2016-05-15 10.00.07
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The new coop is finally done enough (I still need to  build the storm hatches and nest boxes) that we could relocate the six-week-old pullets yesterday.  I’ve moved Ezzie in with them and she seems pleased to have the company, although there was a bit of growling and gentle pecking at first. The little ones have no sense of personal space, of course,  and it took her a while to teach them that pecking food debris out of her mutton chops is definitely not allowed. Meanwhile, the two Wyandottes are all out of sorts about the addition. They kvetched non-stop all day yesterday, to the point that someone (not me, of course) may have threatened them with the stew pot.2016-05-15 13.08.56

The garden is very full and starting to produce small bits of new interesting things. The cool weather greens are starting to wilt in the mid-afternoon heat, despite the shade cloth, so it’s time to start pulling the turnips and mustard greens, whether they’re ready or not. Yesterday I pinched off a handful of shallot scapes (I think this is the first time the French Red shallots have sent up bloom stalks) which, along with a bundle of herbs and a handful of fresh fava beans, made a great pesto. I’ve been snagging an occasional snap pea snack, with the shelling peas only about a week away from the first harvest. Also, I took advantage of the grape vines needing a bit of a trim, and used the nice big tender leaves I scavenged for a small batch of dolmas (the veggie version, typically served chilled). I followed Claudia Roden’s recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food and they were, hands down, the best dolmas I’ve eaten, due in part, I think, to the fresh grape leaves.2016-05-15 16.14.05

Finally, here’s a progress shot of the “giant asparagus” from 2 days ago: 2016-05-14 08.54.39Makes the Jack and the Beanstalk story seem totally viable, no?

So, This is Happening

PKS_3416 The Agave Parryi Neomexicana is sending up a bloom stalk. I thought I might have a few more years before this happened. This agave has been in the ground since September 2007, so maybe a little young for this last gasp, however, it is fairly large, and we did have a nice wet winter, so… maybe it has decided this is an auspicious time. Fortunately, there are several pups at the base to take its place. Anyway, stay tuned for progress photos of the dramatic bloom stalk.

Another Year

Yes, it is that time again. Since the beginning  there’s one plant here at Less is More that serves as a touchstone – a reminder of how much growing has happened and an intense eye candy taste of all the good things to come in the way of cactus blooms. Of course it is “carrot top.”


It’s the first cactus to bloom in my yard, by at least a week usually, so it doesn’t have to share the stage with any of it’s equally gaudy neighbors. This year the Echinocereus coccineus started blooming about 6 days ago, and has been really spectacular, particularly when the low evening light hits the blooms.



By the way, there’s another succulent that is looking particularly lovely right now:


The Yucca baccata flowers are so elegant in contrast to the brute force exhibited by the rest of the plant.

Blue Skies and Sunshine

Yup, It’s that time of year already. Monsoon season has come and gone, without delivering any significant rain, and the skies have returned to the magnificent NM blue that sets off the Maximillian sunflower so nicely. Wait a minute, here’s a better example:

This spring I moved my Maximillian down slope to the edge of the drainage swale and, thanks to this damper site, the stalks have actually reached 5′ tall (as opposed to the stunted 3′ tall stalks of the previous years). I do give it a bit of extra water occasionally – about once per month I’ll give it a drink if I’m walking by with the watering can. This new location is also very handy as the neighboring cholla grabs the stalks when the wind blows and keeps them standing. I also like the way it looks – the cheery yellow flowers among the spikes. Two weeks ago I added a sporobolus wrightii to the grouping. I’m imagining the giant billowing grass will be a nice addition to the tableau.


Growing up and Filling Out

The chicks are now 3 weeks old, which means I’ve graduated them to plenty of fresh air and sunshine. The weather has been quite warm, too warm actually with 91* in the forecast for today, so their cage has been moved to the garden for the morning. They also get some closely supervised un-caged time to scratch, peck, dust bathe and chase insects – big excitement. All the chicks seem to be doing well. As you can see in the photo, the chick with the eye problems is doing much better – both eyes have been clear for the past few days. S/he is also the largest chick, but grew in tails feathers after the other two. . . I can’t help but wonder if we have a little cockerel on our hands. I’m trying to avoid engaging in too much conjecture, since at this age that’s all it is, but. . .

Anyway, we’re having a week of summer interjected in spring (seems like everyone is having an unusually warm spring this year), so I’ve been running around planting squash and bean seeds. I’ve also finally cleaned up the front porch so I can sit there and admire the spring blooming plants.  Right now we have Apache plume, claret cup cactus, banana yucca, sulpher buckwheat, blackfoot daisy, basin fleabane and perky sue flowering. It’s quite a nice show.

Non-gardener actually noticed how lush everything looks right now – at four years old, many of the plants have finally started to fill out and look less tenuous. The front yard is almost starting to look like a garden, high desert style.

Totally Random Collection of Musings

Hey, look! My yucca baccata (banana yucca) is sending up a bloom stalk. This yucca has been in the ground here since 2007, but this will be the first time it blooms. I love heading out onto the mesas when all  the yucca is bloom – all those incredible stalks of off white blooms, so I’m quite excited that I’ll have this at home this year. Plus, the fruit is supposedly edible. Although the descriptions I’ve read usually say “starchy and bland”, it might be interesting to try it first hand.

Anyway, it was a big weekend in the garden: the official tomato planting weekend. There should be a festival. Everyone I know with a garden here spent the weekend the same way. Also, I accomplished another round of seed starting. This time it was squash and cucumbers. After the Great Curcubit Failure of 2010, I’m really anxious to do whatever I can to ensure the survival of the cucumbers and squashes  this year, so I’m trying something new – I’m starting the seeds earlier than usual, inside. The second thing I need to do is figure out how to protect the seedlings when I transplant them in the garden. I’ve used cardboard tubes in the past, with mixed results. I suspect most of the damage is caused by pillbugs . . .  I’ll go surfing on the interwebs to see if other folks have figured it out.

On a whim, since I already had my big box of seeds out, I direct sowed some beans in the garden (about 3 weeks earlier than usual) and sowed a few inside in pots to compare the results. I also have a hard time ensuring the survival of my bean seedlings – it is pretty common for me to find out they’ve been beheaded or dug up during the night by birds, or gnawed at the soil line by pillbugs.

As I contemplate my future of summer edibles, I’ll leave you with another shot of a claret cup cactus in bloom. I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s no such thing as too much cactus blooming eye candy:

A Quick Catch-up

Like everyone else, I’m in the middle of the spring frenzy. As is usual, there’s the flurry of unexpected design projects that come in as folks realize it’s spring already and time for change.  And of course, that same realization has hit here, as well. The past few weekends have been spent tackling languishing projects: refurbishing our outdoor furniture, finally putting the cipher lock and handle sets on the new garage doors we built last year (so we can easily get the bikes in and out), taking down the cold frames . . . lots of other small, time consuming, tasks. And of course, I’ve been running around planting and seeding. The pace is a little more hectic than usual because I’m preparing to go out of town for two weeks –  which means I’m handing the reins over to the household non-gardener. I’ve done my best to ensure that the transplants are established and seeds germinated, so the garden can hold on with only occasional watering and harvesting. There have been some simple tutorials: “How to ID a fava plant vs. snap pea>”and”What is a garlic scape?” are two of the timely topics.

In the meantime, everything around here has started to explode with color. I’d become so accustomed to being surrounded by a barren, dug up landscape that I’m still taken by surprise each time I spy another cactus blooming or lush green perennial drooping from the weight of all the buds waiting to pop open. The backyard circle-o-flowers will soon be the hot gaudy mess of blooms I was hoping for:

Backyard circle o’ flowers

And the front yard is starting to fill in as the cacti and other xeric natives get established:

Front yard

And pink is popping out everywhere (much to non-gardener’s chagrin). Case in point, here’s the view from our kitchen door:

View from the kitchen door

Well, I think that gets us caught up. Hopefully I’ll do some posting from the road. Assuming the ash cloud doesn’t interfere, Friday morning I hit the skies to keep my mother company walking the West Highland Way in Scotland. I suspect I’ll become reacquainted with the concept of rain . . .

Don’t Forget to Look Down

Alionsis spathulata

I told myself that I wouldn’t bore you with daily photos of diminutive succulents in bloom this spring, but how could I resist this? These flowers open every afternoon to form such a dense mass of vivid magenta, the plant beneath is completely hidden. It’s a brief show, but one I look forward to all year. Unfortunately, I lost two of my living stones this winter (too wet, too cold, too dry, I don’t know), so I’m down to just four, and one of those looks like it’s struggling a bit. Hopefully it will pull through to join in the show. Each of these South African succulents blooms at a slightly different time, so I have staggered color underfoot in the courtyard for a month, or so.