“Be careful…It’s hot out there” I said. “Oh, but it’s a dry heat” she replied with a laugh. That’s true enough. It sits at 104 degrees with a whopping 4 percent humidity. When I moved here from the Midwest I thought that humidity that low was lethal. Our body is made up of water, right? Don’t we need about 60% humidity to live? Well, apparently not.
I remember Missouri days of 112 degrees and humidity of 80-90 percent. There are no words to describe that heat. Just the stupid question: “Hot enough for ya?” Even squirrels were falling out of trees. Birds sat with their beaks open…panting. Some people were dying in front of their TVs.
In the old days, long before AC, people would drag their beds out into the night. Residential boulevards in St. Louis — the ones with grassy center parkways — were nightly campgrounds. If you were lucky you had an elevated sleeping porch. If you were really lucky it was screened to keep out the mosquitos. The mosquito-borne St. Louis Encephalitis made its appearance in the 1930s as if the heat wasn’t enough.
It gets hot here in the high and dry New Mexico desert but the record is a wimpy 107 from a few years ago. The low humidity can trick you into thinking it’s not too hot. With a breeze and some shade, you might not feel so hot. You don’t sweat. The dryness sucks away any moisture. You must drink water and lots of it. The intense sun light, at over 5,000 feet will toast almost anything not in the shade. After a few years here I took a trip up the road to Colorado Springs and began sweating for the first time in years — I had forgotten what that was like. Later that year I spent the first week of September in St. Louis for a family reunion. I was moist, to say the least. I recall my Aunt and Uncle coming to visit us in St. Louis during the summer from California and listening to them complain and carry on about the heat. We didn’t know what they were complaining about — isn’t this normal everywhere in summer? No.
So, yes, it is a dry heat…but it is still hot. June is our hottest month and people will sometimes escape to cooler climates. I went to Steamboat Springs for a week and just got back. Tulips are blooming there and daffodils. It was in the low 50s in the morning and topped out in the 70s most days. When I was driving home my car’s AC died…I had been having trouble with it and it went belly up south of Fairplay. By the time I got south of Alamosa I could see the smoke. The Jemez Mountains were burning again. I wonder, sometimes, how there can be anything left to burn but driving up through the mountains you can see that there is plenty of fuel left. The Jemez Mountains, about 45 minutes north of Albuquerque, are too popular for their own good. People go there to cool off and camp on hot weekends or to picnic. They build campfires and then walk off and leave them. On a recent weekend, the Forest Service had to douse thirty abandoned campfires. What kind of an idiot walks away from a campfire in a dry and hot forest? The current fire, the one I could see thirty miles into Colorado, burned a little less than 2,000 acres (so far, it is still burning) and was started by an abandoned campfire. There is no excuse for that. The cost has reached $1.7 million to fight that fire.
Stay cool. Have a cold beer or some lemonade. Put out your campfire.
We only have a few days of summer left. Fall officially starts on September 23. Can flu season be far behind? They are already playing football. Baseball is in the late season frenzy. I thought I’d reminisce a little about summer here in our neck of the woods. (OK– you have to look closely for the woods but it’s there.)
Summer here in the Rio Grande valley is most often viewed as monsoon season and I’ve already written about that a while back Thanks to El Nino we have had quite a bit of rain. I’ve never seen the desert so green. The rain comes and goes and usually lasts maybe a half hour. Sometimes it goes crazy…like when it washed out the railroad bridge and stopped the RailRunner for a weekend. Flash floods are dangerous — there have been a lot of them lately and some fatalities. We have had some serious forest fires during our recent drought and heavy rain after a forest fire is devastating. I found a video of a flood destroying Dixon’s Orchard following a forest fire up in the Jemez Mountains…this is from 2011.
I didn’t have to contend with a flash flood. My only problem was the rain-out of an Isotopes minor league baseball game. I was pretty lucky, I guess. I got a rain check and was able to see a game on a dryer day. We still lost. The Isotopes did not have a good season this year and attendance was down due to the many rain-outs.
We still have the best green chile race in all of baseball.
I am sometimes critical of Albuquerque’s city administration and the way they do things but I must say that they seem to know how to put on a street festival. The city had four Summerfests scheduled around town and I made it to two of them…Route 66 on Central Avenue and the Westside on Ellison. The crowds were quite large and well behaved. There was good food and good music. I took a bunch of pictures but I missed having my camera ready when the topless women paraded down Central Avenue…dang.
Labor Day weekend snuck up on us pretty quick. For the past 27 years the city of Bernalillo has hosted the New Mexico State Wine Festival and it has been pretty popular. It’s not just about wine…there are crafts and lots of food and music. I went last year and enjoyed it — so you can imagine my surprise and disappointment when they announced that they would no longer be holding the annual wine festival. Accounts vary but it seems that attendance has been dropping and there are other wine festivals in the area. Isleta Casino picked it up and hosted an indoor wine and jazz festival — which I went to. It was very nice but I like outdoor events if the weather is good. I did buy some wine and tasted my share.
Meanwhile, Bernalillo decided to replace the wine festival with the Mountain West Brew Fest…going from wine to craft beer. I was skeptical — we have a lot of craft beer festivals all year long. Almost every other weekend you can find a beer festival somewhere nearby. I didn’t quite know how this was going to turn out….but it was great. Unlike some places, Bernalillo is very laid back and has a very casual vibe and that set the tone for the Mountain West Beer Festival. I really didn’t know we had so many breweries. I admit that I’ve not been able to keep up with the two or more that open each month…Albuquerque is awash with craft beer. This was a chance to get a taste from over thirty local breweries and a bunch from out of state. Now, I’m a home brewer and I know something about making good beer. I have a medal and a trophy to prove it. I did not have a bad beer during the many tasting booths that I stopped at. I had some that were not to my liking…style-wise…but they were still good at what they were trying to do. Of course I took some pictures… It was another beautiful day.
The Monks at Christ in the Desert are the makers of a line of beer called Monks’ Ales. They are in a pretty isolated place up on the Chama River so some of the actual brewing has been contracted out closer to town but they are very much involved. They have been propagating and growing native Neomexicanus hops. New Mexico has it’s own variety of wild hops and the monks are pretty much it as far as acquiring any…unless you want to scour the mountains on your own looking for hops…which people do. I finally got to taste a beer made with Neomexicanus hops and I have to say that I liked it but it was a little unique….mostly in the lingering finish. These are not bittering hops — they have low acid levels, I think — so they are finishing hops, I think. I also think that there is a lot of mythology out there on these wild hops because not many people have any experience with them. I’d like to get my hands on some but the monks are pretty stingy.
By now you might have the impression that I drank my way through the summer. I can see how that might have happened but, I assure you, I was sober and righteous most of the time. Well, with the exception of Tuesday nights. Tuesday is Vinyl Night at Kaktus Brewing in Bernalillo and Stu (you’ve seen his blurry picture above) and I try to keep some music going — mostly music that is on vinyl records or first appeared on vinyl. We make some exceptions. The range of music has gone from surfer music to The Doors to lots of Jazz to The Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, Willie Nelson, The Who and a little bit of Donovan. We were able to squeeze in Mark Knopfler’s Shangri La CD (not vinyl) this week. We are heading toward a western swing night before too long.
But — I’ve done other stuff. The Volcanoes and the BioPark show up in this blog pretty often as does Sandia Peak. I really, REALLY, want to go fishing so I’m hoping that happens soon.
This has been quite a year for hummingbirds. I can’t guess how many I have around the house…and almost in the house. They are a marvel and a joy to watch but this year, with all of our rain, we have a lot more than usual. It’s getting sort of ‘ho-hum’ in some respects. Where I moved from we had only one variety. If it was a hummingbird it would be a Ruby Throated Hummingbird…period. Here, in the New Mexico desert, we have four or five types and I still can’t identify them after two years of trying.
If I sit outside on the front or back portal it won’t be long before I have a visitor. One visitor brings another and then there is an aerial acrobatic fussing match. The little hummers are very territorial or else I must be regarded as something of a prize to be fought over.
I have a Trumpet Vine in the front courtyard that climbs up a pueblo-style ladder on the wall. In previous years, under earlier owners, it just laid on the ground more like a ground cover but I built the ladder and now it is upright and is Grand Central Station for hummers. There are also Mexican Bird of Paradise and a Desert Willow trees in the courtyard that bloom all summer and attract hummingbirds. I have a large goldfish pond with large water lilies but that seems to be the domain of the dragonflies. I’ve never seen a hummer go to a water lily.
Watson, my cat, enjoys snoozing on the portals and must birds will make a fuss about it if they are close by and he is roaming around or even just lying quietly. The hummers don’t seem to mind and I don’t think they even notice him. He’s fifteen years old and is a slow mover so they think he’s part of the geography. He sees them but doesn’t quite know what to make of them — he’s accepted them, too. “Live and let live” is his motto…unless you are a bug.
Some birds seem to be front yard hummers and some are backyard hummers. One of my backyard birds needs a lube job because it sounds like one of his bearings is going out. He makes a high-pitched metallic clicking sound when he flies. Maybe he is actually a drone and I am under close government surveillance. They say the military has perfected small drones that can pass as hummingbirds……nah, there’s nothing to see here.