Archive for the ‘arizona’ Category

Many years ago I was a Park Ranger at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.   In my mind, Chaco Canyon is the most impressive Native American Ruins in the United States.  I feel it is sad that every school kid in america does not know the story of Chaco.  The Anasazi built a great trading network across the South West, with Chaco as its central trading hub.  And then one day they left.    There is debate of where they went, many would say (and I agree) that they became the Pueblo people of the SouthWest.  

Another great debate about Chaco is WHY they left.  If they became the Pueblo, then the equivalent of what they did would be if we, in modern America, decided to abandon our legal system, our education system, our monetary system, our transportation system, and went and lived in the woods like the uni-bomber.   What would make a society throw away everything they had built? 

There is no evidence of  war on ascale that would take to decimate a society.  There is no evidence of mass plague.  There is some evidence of drought, but not on a scale that we would expect would cause mass starvation.

On the summer solstice, it appears the sun does not move for three days.  For those skywatchers this would have been signficant.  A common Native American belief is that on the summer solstice, the sun goes into his house and decides if his people are worthy of another year of life.   If the sun decides his people do not deserve another day, he stays in his house, which would mean endless summer, which for those living in the SouthWest, would really suck.

The Dine’ people tell stories of how the Anasazi were punished by the gods because of their immoral lifestyle, just like we think orgies helped bring down the Romans.   I suspect an “immoral lifestyle” in the SouthWest is the waste of precious resources. 

My guess, and others as well, is that drought caused the abandonment of Chaco Canyon, but not because the loss of crops forced the people out, but the people interpreted the drought as they should leave, that the life they were living was not approved.  Which in a way it wouldn’t have been, as more and more people lived in the desert city, then the resources would have been maxed out.    I don’t think we today are capable of doing what the Anasazi did.   Al Gore might win an Oscar for An Inconvient Truth, but little else changes. 

So, if I am right, which is a big if, then Anasazi, as a society, volunteered to create their own Apocalypse.  Which is either extremely noble or stupid, depending how one looks at it.

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It is starting to get hot in Phoenix.  For the grand experiment I am going to see how long I can go without turning on the air.  At some point it becomes too hot to sleep, and I have a day job.  The goal is to see if I can make it to June  15.   If I could make it to the Summer Solstice, June 22, that would be amazing, or at least I would think that would be amazing.  Phoenix gets hot, like Baghdad hot.

For this to work I have got to make my front yard more livable. It gets the better summer shade and cools down quickest.  So this weekend was all about that,  one bougavellia plant gone, while the thorny plant was good to help protect the windows it was just a pain in the ass, and took up all of the best shade.  Second, was prepping and planning and scouting and raking.  Anybody got any ideas on where I can get 9feet by 9feet of Flagstone?

I also spent a Sunday Morning at Grow in beautiful downtown Phoenix, helping them get ready to hunker down for summer.  I wanted to see how they were approaching it.

Below: Sunflower seeds at Grow.

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Up North, where there is winter, only the strong surivie.  In Michigan, a cat can have about one litter a year.  Here in Phoenix they can have three.  So Phoenix has a feral cat problem, much larger than cities outside of the sunbelt.  Lets assume that a feral cat living on wits alone is like living in the apocalypse.  The fact they can have three litters a year versus one provides further evidence that Phoenix is not that bad a place to be after the Apocalypse.

I went for a hike last weekend to see what the desert is currently producing.  There are no pods yet on the mesquite,  and no wildflowers yet.  However, I did see several Ocotillo plants in full bloom.

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Above: Blooming Ocotillo plant.

According to Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest by Charles W. Kane the bark and flower can be used to dislodge phlegm, sedate a cough, provide relief to hemorrhoids, encourage circulation for prostatitis and simulate menses. Being a real man, I had no idea what “simulate menses” meant, and had to google it.  I discovered it means “the monthly flow of blood and cellular debris from the uterus.”  Why anyone would want to simulate this is beyond me. 

I have been using myself as a guinea pig for all the medicines I have been gathering.  Luckily I don’t (currently) have hemorrhoids or an enlarged prostatitis.  I would also expect it would be difficult to find a woman who is willing to volunteer to drink plant bark in order to, you know, simulate the return of Miss Scarlett.  But I am going to collect some of the flowers and bark anyway.

As a coincidence (I am reluctant to call it a sign) the Ocotillo plant I photographed above was right beside the petroglyph photographed below.  I have long wondered if the central character in this panel represents a woman going through her monthly cycle. 

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Update:  This link shows how to make Homemade Sanitary Pads.

I been reading Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon and frankly it just overwhelms me. 

After reading the watering section I am not sure if he is telling me to water more or water less.  I suppose one needs a little bit of a mathematical mind to follow his recommendations,  maybe having a mathematical mind is part of  a green thumb?     I wasn’t sure what he was talking about in the watering section, much less the composting or fertigation sections.

I believe my soil in Phoenix is Clay, and he doesn’t seem to think it is worth growing in clay.  This makes me sad.  The reviews on Amazon.com for the book are mixed, some feel as I do, while others strongly recommend reading the book a second time in order to get everything to sink in. 

I did like the idea of making a compost-tea and then use a drip method on the plants.   That might be a good project for the weekend.

Below: A less-than succesful experiment of using an old pallet to make a slightly raised bed.

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The Arizona Desert Botanical Garden is going to have their spring sale on March 18 and 19th.   I am getting ready by figuring out what plants they will most likely have that would be good to have growing in the backyard for when civilization conks out. 

Thanks to itsadisaster over at the American Preppers Network Forum, I found the great Desert Harvesters website.   Along the left side of the Desert Harvesters site is the list of trees that provide food and also tons of great information.  

I will be looking for..

  • Ironweed
  • Mesquite (already two in the backyard).  The Velvet Mesquite is the best type of mesquite tree to plant.
  • Palo Verde.  The Foothills Palo Verde has better tasking (sweeter) seeds than the Blue Palo Verde.
  • Prickly Pear (good for fruits, but this plant is so easy to find, do I really want to use precious space in the backyard on it?)

 

shots from 4 years ago, trees purchased at last sale I went to.

It does not rain much in the desert. Water in Phoenix is a not-so-secret achilles hell. I stood in the rain and wondered how much I could have gathered at the last moment.  I know some people build roofs that gather the water and then they collect it.  I wonder how much I could gather in a pinch.  I suppose I should have measured the amount and then forecasted how long that would have lasted.

To do:

Next rain, fill the pots, to see how much I could gather in a pinch, and know how to filter the water.  Apparently sand matters.  But what constitutes sand?    Where could one gather it if not by the beach? And I will need to get my hands on some Alum, where they hell do I get that?