Archive for the 'log' Category


log: end o’ summer 2015

Semi-annual pilgrimage to Paliza Canyon in the Jemez, this year camped a bit further north than usual. In an area where a lot of pumice mining happened early 20th century, grassland habitat had a few Chamiza/Rabbit Brush in full bloom. And, look what was feeding on them in that 7000′, north central NM area:

Saturday, October 3, 2015 - Monarch Butterflies feeding on Chamiza on Paliza Canyon mesa top.

Saturday, October 3, 2015 – Monarch Butterflies feeding on Chamiza on Paliza Canyon mesa top.

Note Ponderosa pine needles at top of cropped photo.

Note Ponderosa pine needles at top of cropped photo.

Glad to see Monarchs in our own high elevations, in the middle of their migration time!

Glad to see Monarchs in our own high elevations, in the middle of their migration time!


log: other end of summer

Aug 29, 2013
Tonite …
-a swallow dipped and curved over the same half block, movements echoing the shape of the orange cloud tinged by the sunset.
– a tall dog waded ankle deep in an emptying ditch
– on the surface of the shallow water, bubbles rose in concentric circles. Chunky 5 inch crawdad swam, visible!
– tiniest skimmers – water striders?
– each steep muddy bank revealed rows of crawdad holes

A lot has happened in 3 and a half months here in the mid Rio Grande valley. Where we as a family are “perched,” less than a mile from the east shore, we are first to see the river and ditch water coming into the 15-20 miles that is Albuquerque when we take our walks.

June saw river levels stretch from shore to shore. On walks past-sunset approaching darkness, I saw my first muskrat swimming faster than my walking, skinny tail, husky body, nose and eyes above water.
Another nite a coyote stopped and stared at us 200 feet away and my dog wanted to join him.
Then, there was the dusk when another nose and eyes swam from shore out into the river, and then slapped the water with its tail – first beaver seen in the wild for me.
In that same month of June, a Kingfisher was on a wire above the ditch, another first.

It was right after the beaver sighting that the months-promised shut-off of the river happened. July 1 was the promised date for not supplementing the flow to the river, in turn to the ditch system. Out of Cochiti Dam, no extra water would be released. I walked most days that first week, to observe how low the river and the ditches got and all the changes. Of course the actual Rio Grande State Park land along the Rio was officially closed – restricting access as in so many recent years due to the extreme dryness of the riverside forest, so I was breaking the law by going over there.

I, like many people living in New Mexico, carried in the beginning of the summer a burden of dread because of the dryness. I had many plants in my yard die or struggle or not come back (see previous post). Much of my professional life was engaged with this reality – I work with a team of families doing The Learning Garden, was preparing for drought murals in the Art Adventures Camp and getting ready to teach Nature Detectives Camp for K-2nd graders. I was reading colleagues’ writings detailing water politics and speculating outcomes. I was obsessed with the thought of extreme water-rationing. Reports abounded of wild animals traveling to the river corridor – at lease once a week a story of bears in neighborhoods.

Our 8th meeting of the Learning Garden first week of July had us planting our first plants there – a flat of Maximillian Sunflowers – after laying down soaker hoses. We heaped on 2 bales of straw for mulch. The next day the city had its first rain shower in 7 months that actually made puddles. At the end of July gleeful meteorologists were reporting a record-breaking rainfall for July of 2.7 inches.

Trips to the river (the forest and bosque travel bans lifted) provided a changed stream bed almost every visit. At one visit, red mud lined the bar and bank – we collected the top inch of clay – and predicted it was from the Jemez. After bigger rains, there was evidence of river level rising 2 feet.

We had experienced a miracle. Our monsoon season came early and stayed with us and the plants and soil and 2 and 4 leggeds sensed relief.

Now, at the end of August, we are back to the dry cycle, with more weeds since the wet summer of 2006. And the water levels, as reported in first paragraph, are the lowest yet.

new cactus frond growth in mid July, showing fleshy spines

new cactus frond growth in mid July, showing fleshy spines


mid-may log: glowing granite, gnat swarm, swift ditch water

Sun straight in my face as I set out to our ditch this eve with Mag the dog. On the asphalt, many grey inch-long grasshoppers jumped away from my steps. Mid-May and they are that big, I noted. Approaching the ditch, could see the high water from 20 feet back, and Mag entered to wade on the edge.

Soft dirt of the ditch road is deep. Duck tracks are all around. Our Precambrian uplift towards the east – the Sandia Mountains – start to glow red – the sun has set. The gnats above my head are moving with me. My dog chooses the way over to the bigger Clear Ditch and I follow her. After her I step over the fence and onto the trail where I know animals are starting to move in the cover of dusk. I urge Mag to stay with me as she nuzzles the burrows. The gnats in their hundreds are still above me.

Sounds like children, but it’s geese honking, taking off from the flooded field. We pad over the wooden bridge, and I follow Mag down the bank. I fear the water is too deep for her – but the edge was shallow. It’s too dark to continue over to the river, so we head back. Happy to see a few bats dipping above my path.

The light is brightest in the southwest – the call of that wild territory. Through the trees on the western horizon the three planets shine. We in the valley are blessed with spring run-off.

light to the southwest

light to the southwest


yard log: 4/24/2013

Here on the east side of the Rio Grande, elevation 4976 ft., we have 34 degrees F. outside – a sunny, late April morning.

It’s been cold at night – last week we had two nights in the low 20’s. Last night it didn’t get down below freezing, according to NOAA weather blog.

I write to list the plants in our yard that don’t seem to be doing too well. My spouse says to wait a while til after it’s warmed up. This photo is of the first plant – the big lilac bush given to us by my mom the month after we moved in, 1985.

April 24, 2013  - 28 year old Lilac

April 24, 2013 – 28 year old Lilac

Each spring we witness plants that didn’t make it through the winter. The spring of 2010, there were plants that didn’t survive the week of extremely low temperatures in February of that year (Rosemary, Lingustrum bushes, Spirea).

2013 Plants don’t seem alive:
Red Plum

2013 Plants with major percentage dead growth:
2 Lilacs

I hose-watered every month over the winter. But our rainfall has been zilch. At the NOAA website I looked at this map/graph of last 3 months precipitation (SPI – Standardized Precipitation Index)
It shows our central NM area as the color light brown (between negative – 0.8 and 0.4 inches).

Here is another map I downloaded (where our area is shown to have ‘drought persist or intensify’):

And here is that same Lilac from 3 years ago – April 28th, 2010:

Mother's Lilac 4/28/2010

Mother’s Lilac 4/28/2010

Mother's Lilac 4/24/2013

Mother’s Lilac 4/24/2013

I read this good overview of water in New Mexico by VB Price in the NM Mercury last evening-

It got me thinking about how my family could make our lives work on 50 gallons of water a day. And this morning I want to start measuring …


yard log 8/18/12: the wee worms, tiny bees, snails

What would I do without my yard – mi yarda I would like to call it. As my mind is taken over with life at the Museum Education Department, if I didn’t have the paths to follow with the hose for 15 minutes each morning, I would be too overwhelmed with my all-encompassing job.

The image that keeps coming back to me from this summer is of Tomato Horn Worms the size of Inch Worms. Tiny. Have not seen them that little before – they were on the Datura. Previous summers these horn worms have devoured the Datura so that no leaves nor blossoms were present and the tough plant would re-burst some new sets of leaves. Knowing the hallucinogenic properties when humans ingest the root, I wondered at the worm’s experience. I was amazed to see horn worms so tiny on the plant this year – worms I have always seen at their most fat and lengthy stage. This summer the worms have not succeeded in stripping off all the Datura leaves, thank goodness.


[photo by George Bedehof, Michigan]

So, I have spent some time learning about these, at the easiest online place to learn – good ole Wikipedia. Please bear with as I share what I am learning.

First off, I found that these worms have been observed to regurgitate 98% of toxicity from plants like tobacco. So that explains why they aren’t in a stupor on the Moon Flowers.

These worms become the nocturnal Sphinx Moth that pollinates the Datura. Sphingidae! Their flight has been observed to incorporate “swing-hovering.” These ‘hawk moths’ are one of 4 nectar-eating flyers to be able to do such rapid, sustained flying. Have learned that they are some of the fastest flying insects – they can fly up to 30 mph. Pretty neat for their small size.

These animals have had our tomato plants to gorge themselves on as well these past few years, probably 50 feet away. The eggs can hatch from between 3 to 21 days. So as I water this morning, I am looking for the eggs. The caterpillars will pupate in the ground – and I learn they will emerge as moths in about 2 weeks. The last of the pupas to be developed later in September October will overwinter til next year. These caterpillars must be pretty smart to pupate not directly in the soil beneath the tomatoes, which I will spade up next March. Only rarely have I discovered pupae, and am not sure if they are Sphingoids. I have hoped they were Papilio rutulus pupae. I remember when my students Benito and Juanelo brought in the pupa they found last spring in the maceta in their sand box only a few blocks away. As Benito held the big brown wonder in his hand, it was moving. I have found those same ones en mi yarda.


[photo of my tile,”Tiger Swallowtail on your way to grapes” © 2008 CC Snider-Bryan all rights reserved]

I think it’s the caterpillars that have been eating big bites from each of my actual tomato fruit, instead of just the young leaves as the article states. I am not finding horn worms this morning though. So maybe it’s the grasshoppers who are eating the fruit.

Acutally, come to think of it, I haven’t seen a horn worm on my plants since I captured two of them to take to my classroom at the beginning of July. They did not live past the weekend in the gallon jar supplied with tomato branches and bit of water. I was not nice to them – better to have smashed them with a rock and put them out of their misery quickly.


[photo by CC Snider-Bryan ‘Bloomin’ Chives en mi yarda’]

Right now is my favorite midsummer time when all the chives are flowering! And there are tiny bees pollinating them. My co-worker Mike Sanchez, inspiring encyclopaedia about arthropods, told me about them on a training hike. I thought they were flies. But oh, no, they are “hymnoptera” – the class of 2 sets of wings that are bees and wasps. This luxurious day at home I am observing them – on the chives and on the mint flowers.

Snails, why snails in the title you ask? Well, I saw them scaling my basil. And I realize that i need to thoroughly wash basil de mi yarda! Our daughter is moving out this weekend and she wanted to go to the Growers Market for her larder and I replied that she could have chard, tomatoes and basil from our yard and the eggplant and onion from her house sitting job. But she better wash the basil.


Yard log: March 18, 2012

Won’t be a day to a day to pull a trailer … said my sis to me last eve when i told her about my idea to drive to Bandelier to camp. Turned out I spent the day inside the old trailer, with wind howling, pulling down big limbs from our tall elms, causing the view to Sandia Crest to disappear behind brown-gray curtain. Too windy to take that walk I wanted – no searching for Coyote sign by the river. White circles covered the path: Apricot petals. Loose tiles were flipped, tables were tossed. Sparrows and Doves perched around the feeders, they too seemed caught in a limbo like me. Hard to have a warm spring day at home and not be able to be outside, however – Gusty does not play nice.

'Gusty' by Tulsa meteorologist Don Woods - cartoon I grew up seeing the channel 8 weatherman draw


Log: Crane Flight Over Rio Grande

Tat-a-tat-tat in
the top of the elm:
morning Ladderback.

Late afternoon walk:
Ides of November
V after V of Cranes.

Planets and stars out –
sun faded on horizon,
low Crane warble!

-ccsb 11/15/11

Bosque Panel install September 2010


3 lines, in the Japanese Haiku tradition, serve me well to help my noticing, and help me notice more. I had pleasure of being a part of a Renga group a few years ago and got to experience the rhythm of sharing back and forth, as well as noticing with 3 lines, or 3 lines + 2 lines. Our group was wonderful in that it was the meaning, not the exact form, that was the goal.

clay & log posts

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