Thursday, September 23, 2010

Field Notes From The Farm -- September, 2008

Here's my Dad's inaugural "Field Notes from the Farm":

September, 2008

Field Notes From The Farm

We moved to Anton Chico at the end of January and our world changed.  Santa Fe is only 85 miles from Anton Chico, but the contrast can’t be more stark.  Santa Fe is a destination city: sophisticated, cultured, moneyed.  Anton Chico is an 1821 Mexican Land Grant on the Pecos River: simple, rural, poor.

“Rural” does not quite convey the remoteness of the area.  Although there are a 1000 or more people living in the small five villages that make up the area, there is only one small convenience store in Anton Chico and one bar 5 miles away in Dilia.  (Our farm is in Tecolotito, 5 miles the opposite way from Anton Chico.)  To make the point: there is no bank, no market, no gasoline, no restaurant, no movie theater, no nothing.

But we love it.  The land is magical.  Our farm at 23.5 acres is actually 3 legal parcels.  Land division in rural New Mexico typically allocates access to the water equally, which results in parcels becoming narrower and narrower over several generations.  Our farm is only 300 feet wide but nearly a mile long with the acequia (the irrigation ditch) meandering through the center of the farm.  The upper part of the farm is desert grassland with a few Junipers and Chollas.  The lower part of the farm is the irrigated half.  The fields are lined with trees, primarily Cottonwoods and Locusts along the acequia and Osage Oranges and Hackberry in the hedgerows running down to the Pecos River.

Take an arid state like New Mexico and the rivers that flow year round are like green ribbons in a desolate landscape. Round numbers: the green ribbons comprise less than 2% of the land area but contain 90% of the plants and animals in the state.  The Pecos River is fed by snowmelt from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and there are no dams upstream from us.  The high water is the Spring snowmelt and the flow tapers off the rest of the year, punctuated now and then by surges from one of our monsoon thundershowers.

We say the land is magical because it is like finding an unexpected oasis, a lost corner of Eden.  The farm is teeming with wildlife.  There are literally dozens and dozens of birds and wild flowers that neither of us know.  There are beaver in the acequia and we have a resident fox.  And the grasses!  Dozens of different grasses, from diminutive 2 inch ground huggers to majestic plumes that tower over your head.  We plan to maintain this incredible diversity while developing our farm.

We have spent the first half-year getting to know the land and planning how we want to develop the farm.  We have installed a new irrigation gate, built a footbridge over the acequia, bought a tractor and compressed earth block machine, grown a large veggie garden, planted many fruit tress and are near finalizing plans for our first building which will go under construction next Spring.  In the meantime we are building a 30’ x 72’ poly greenhouse to keep the production going through the winter.  More in the next issue of Field Notes From The Farm.

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