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Monday, October 31, 2011

Return of the Corn (at Taos Pueblo)


The roads that wind across the Taos Pueblo reservation pass through a cultural and environmental mosaic of a type common in the rural West, where natural beauty and human poverty overlap and sometimes blend. Here is a thicket of wild plums growing up along a lush irrigation ditch, the Sangre de Cristo mountains rising up as backdrop. Here is a tiny stuccoed house, accompanied by an old Chevy Chevelle that appears to be slowly melting into the shrubs and dirt. Nearby, a burned out, roofless shack sits undisturbed while a Rez dog, his thick fur dreadlocked with dirt and neglect, rambles in the dust alongside Deer Jaw road.

Occasionally, this intruder notices a shock of bright green. Each one is a cornfield, the maturing stalks emerald in the sunlight. It's surprising because after World War II many farmers in Taos Pueblo and in other parts of the West gave up traditional farming.

But farming, including corn growing, is slowly coming back to the Pueblo thanks to grassroots efforts that have sprouted over the last decade,  such as the sustainable agriculture initiative and the Red Willow growers cooperative. Now, the return of the corn is also being helped along by a couple of guys who were looking for changes in their own lives, and by an old tractor named the Red Buffalo.

Read the rest of this post here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bats, bear poop and prairie dogs: A country boy meets the urban wild

In the beginning was the bat. Roger, Isolde,* and I sipped margaritas on a warm August evening in their Boulder condo. Suddenly, Roger slammed down his drink, pointed to the ceiling and screamed, “Look out!” As a black, papery blur fluttered around the living room, I dived to the floor and slithered under the table. Roger, more experienced in such matters**, whacked the bat to the floor with his flip flop, trapped it in a bowl and relocated to the out of doors. After we determined that the house was clear, I crawled out from under the table and noticed a scratch on my arm that wasn’t there before. “Rabies is 100 percent fatal,” Roger said. Then he mixed another round.

The bat incident, which occurred just a few days after I moved to Boulder, was my initiation into the urban wild. I’ve spent most of my life in rural areas, and many days and nights exploring the depths of so-called wilderness. Yet my encounters with wildlife, especially potentially hazardous ones, have been fairly scantº. That is, until I moved here, to Colorado’s sprawling and heavily populated Front Range metropolitan area.

I knew Boulder was fraught with hazards, from yoga instructors, clad in curve-and-crevice-revealing spandex pants striking poses in upscale coffee shops, to guys in short shorts yammering on about body mass index, to the high-priced frozen yogurt treats that, only after you get through the checkout line, you realize are made for dogs. But wild animals? Yes. It turns out that whether I’m on a trail run or my daily commute, I’ve become a sort of suburban Craig Childs, with every bike path and cul de sac offering the neck-prickling danger of some animal encounter.

Read the rest at the High Country News Goat blog (where I'll be doing most of my posting while I'm here in Boulder).