Bullock’s Oriole nest
Pamela Geyer’s garden is a Santa Fe oasis, a tangle of flowers, bushes, trees, birdhouses, birdbaths, rain barrels, composters, watering hoses and more. Orioles, towhees, cedar waxwings and other birds flit from branch to branch, darting down to feast from dangling suet cages, protected in this safe haven from predators, wind and other threats.
Pam’s garden lies a block away from the Santa Fe River, a well-traveled migratory corridor for all kinds of wildlife, including more than 40 types of birds that visit her garden throughout the year. To provide them with food and shelter, Pam’s planted flowers in a variety of colors and shapes so they appeal to a range of birds; three different honeysuckles that bloom at different times, providing food throughout the season; and trees and bushes at varying levels, appealing to ground-feeders, mid-level and canopy birds. She’s also created a garden for hummingbirds and another for bees. Continue reading
Finding the meaning in a phrase like “homesteading” is a journey in itself. And that makes sense, really. Over the course of meeting and talking with people who organize their lives around the concept, it became clear to me that to “homestead” is no singular act; it is not a verb constrained by strict definitions. Consider instead meaning drawn from patterns—lives lived one day at a time, based on a series of small conscious choices, the sum of which create a system of living in closer harmony with ourselves and the land.
I take personal refuge in this route to understanding Homesteading because, perhaps like you, I was more than a little daunted by the formality of the pursuit by the puritanism I had projected onto the term. In short, I’d imagined “The Homesteader” as someone of heroic proportions and deeply rooted convictions, someone ready to eschew the comforts of modern living for bootstrapped self-sufficiency of nearly monastic proportions. Maybe chalk that up in part to a penchant for the dramatic and my own idiosyncratic way of seeing just how much greener that xeriscaped garden is on the other side.
But like so many misconceptions, that premise was a false binary. There isn’t an “us and them,” and we’re cast along a continuum. Those of us living and thriving in Northern New Mexico have the increasingly rare and precious privilege of living in a liminal realm between urban and rural. The non-negotiable realities of living in a desert—even one at high altitude—dictate a level of environmental awareness that is conspicuously absent in other regions. Before moving here, I’d never seen a rain barrel—despite having lived most of my life in California, a state chronically challenged by drought.
Rain barrels, cisterns and makeshift water catchment systems are practically par for the course here. And that’s a defining aspect of the domestic landscape here: without making great sacrifice or any big fuss, many of us are already incorporating aspects of homesteading. At its elemental root, it’s about a common-sense relationship with the land. Continue reading
Photo by Gabriella Marks
When we think of a food drive, we may think of going through our kitchen cupboard and searching for items that we can collect to give to our local drive. As the growing season is swiftly upon us, we can go deeper, we can expand our reach to local hungry community members by planting a row of vegetables or fruits.
Together we can bring fresh food to families, seniors and community in need across northern New Mexico. Join this amazing initiative led by The Food Depot, Northern New Mexico’s Food Bank.
“Everyone can make a difference.”
Photo by Gabriella Marks
I’ve been having the best time recently, scrolling through Erin O’Neill’s blog, Seeds & Stones, A Life Home Grown, which chronicles her family’s homesteading experiences in Nambé. Erin and her husband, Joel Glanzberg, make living sustainably look not only feasible for some of us not-so-green-thumbed DIY illiterates, but even doable—and fun! Because the real bottom line to homesteading, it turns out, is not memorizing permaculture techniques or teaching yourself construction and engineering basics. It’s gleaning! Which is just a more polite way of saying scavenging. And not only for materials—wood, appliances, tools, mulching—but ideas. Other people’s ideas. Things they’ve already tried out themselves, so they know they work and they can warn you of how to avoid their own mistakes.
Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation owns and manages eleven very unique properties (totaling about 1,000 acres) under its Open Space initiative. What began as grassroots efforts by numerous local groups was confirmed by larger community support when a referendum passed in 1998 providing mill levy funding (similar to bond funding but with different spending parameters) for these undeveloped lands to remain so for the benefit and enjoyment of Bernalillo County residents and visitors. The properties have been proudly preserved as Bernalillo County’s environmental, historical and cultural treasures. One such jewel is the Gutierrez Hubbell House History and Cultural Center in the heart of the South Valley of Albuquerque.
Photo by Joy Godfrey
The degree to which we’re willing to care for something is based in the value we see in it. So it seems that solutions to the environmental troubles we face lie partly in reevaluating our relationship with nature. There is perhaps no better way of experiencing our place in this remarkable web of life called Earth than tending a small piece of it, in planting a garden. Get your hands in the dirt, have some successes, some failures, some surprises. Figure out what works. Experience directly what nature is up to, both that which is around us and in us. Continue reading