Archive for June, 2012

Dancing the Southwest

In the shadow of the old courthouse, the costumes stun the spectators with their lavish color. Ancient chants and songs, heard in the high Arizona desert for generations, drift from the loudspeakers.  Some of the dancers are adorable children in home-made finery, just learning their traditions. Some are adult professionals who compete at dances and pow-wows across the US. Tourists from Boise or Philadelpia or Minneapolis sit in the bleachers, content at having finally found a slice of the Old West that doesn’t cost money, that is real, that represents something meaningful. Every weeknight in Holbrook, on the grounds of the historic courthouse, Native American dancers share their talents with anyone who wants to stop and see them. It’s a wonderful part of life in this small Western town.

I didn’t ever envision that living here would hold such amazing richness of culture. Some nights, the local Mexican Folklorico dancers come and share the time with the fancy dancers, hoop dancers, jingle dancers, grass dancers, and other Native American practitioners. Sometimes there are social dances, where the audience is encouraged to try their hand..okay, to try their feet…at the unique steps. I haven’t actually done that–I have to live in this town, after all. I love being able to go, though, and sit in the lovely mild evening air to watch a style of performance that is at once very accessible and very other. Wish you were here!

Here are some of the other performers who held still long enough to have their pictures taken.



Snakes…that is, birds…in the garden

I walked out the  door this morning and twelve startled birds flew out of the fruit tree in my front yard, zooming across each other’s paths in guilty confusion. It didn’t take long to figure out what they’d been up to. Those greedy little feathered scavengers were having breakfast.

When we moved to Holbrook, we weren’t sure what kind of fruit tree we’d purchased with the house. It was short, dwarf-appearing, and nicely shaped, but in the absence of leaves or flowers, we had no clue. I asked one neighbor if she knew what kind of fruit grew on it. “It’s an ornamental,” she said firmly. “Pretty flowers but no fruit.”

Another neighbor said, “I remember seeing crabapples on that tree.”

“Citrus,” the third neighbor said, but we knew citrus fruit doesn’t grow here. The tree flowered earlier than anything else in the neighborhood and a few weeks after the flowering was done, I happened to be in the yard near it to water some new plantings. I looked at the tree and saw literally hundreds of small balls hanging on its slender stalks. I could tell they were stone fruits of some sort, but which one? Apricots? Peaches?

After some weeks of fruit-watching and  consultation with yet another neighbor, we concluded they were apricots. They grew larger and larger and finally, just days ago, they began to ripen. We noticed the yellowing fruit, and so did the local bird-life.

This morning, I went to check on my lovely, abundant harvest to find that we’d been beaten to the punch. Dozens of our beautiful apricots had been pecked open and destroyed. I called my friend Irene Enlund, who said, “Take down the fruit that’s nearly ripe and see if it’ll finish ripening indoors. Then hang something reflective and shiny  in the tree to discourage the birds.”

Pre-Bird and Post-Bird Apricots

So I went out with my basket and began picking. When I finished gathering the fruit that was nearly ripe, I hung strips of aluminum foil in the tree. There! I thought. That will fix you birds.

I wish I could say it had, but although the birds circled warily for a few minutes when I finished, I can see out my window that they’re back. In fact, one is sitting on a branch with an aluminum foil strip. I don’t think I’m going to win this battle!

You know, I don’t begrudge the birds their breakfast, if they’d just eat whole apricots. But five little pecks out of each one? Seriously? What’s that about? Wasteful little beggars!

Anyone would think they were human…

Okay, Grass–Ready, Set, Grow!

Our Yard–Amended, Raked, and Ready for Hydroseeding

What can you do for a lawn in the Northern Arizona desert? The answer depends on how much water you have available. Many folks–and after all, it’s their choice and their water bill–decide on good old Kentucky Blue Grass. It takes a ton of water, but it’s pretty, even if not environmentally defensible.

On the other end of the spectrum some folks just say, “Forget it,” and cover their lawn with rocks instead of grass. But that choice is less compatible with grandchildren and it’s hot, besides. Sod? Nope–only available in Kentucky Blue Grass. Seed is available in every type and description, but with Holbrook’s perpetual wind, loose seed simply picks up and blows away. What to do?

As we pondered this problem, our helpful insurance man suggested something new to us: hydroseeding. He explained that water, mulch, and an appropriate mix of grass seeds are combined and then sprayed onto the prepared lawn. The mulch holds the seed in place until the grass starts to grow. That sounded like a winner to us. So just over a week ago, the hydroseeders came to help us out. Here, they are breaking up the green mulch into the tank of water and seed.

Mixing Water, Mulch, and Grass Seed

Soon, a heavy green carpet of mulch covered our lawn. It looked a bit artificial but still seemed hopeful to us.

The lawn is coated with the mixture.

And now, a week or so later, voila! Grass is beginning to grow through the mulch. It’s not rocket science, but it certainly solved a problem for us! Stop by for a visit and see the end result!