Sunday, November 25, 2012

Simply Succulent

I took 5 days off, following a client's progress meeting in Las Cruces. After all it's Thanksgiving, and what's 5 more hours on pavement, plus 90 minutes on a gravel road, to return to the Big Bend for my second time?

My camping gear loaded, I shared in a 130+ person Thanksgiving dinner, then returned, staying in Marfa.

Never leaving the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion from my house to the end of my travels, it seemed I traveled through at least 4 different parts (or subdivisions) of it. And we know what that means on the landscape and plant life forms.
Wed-Fri, Big Bend Ranch State Park - a stand of Ocotillo / Fouquieria splendens on some volcanic hills

The entire desert southwest has the same skies and light. Yes, those skies!

That state park's motto is - "The Other Side of Nowhere"! Like to skiers, how Taos is a "Four-Letter Word For Steep".

Ocotillo fence close-up; not only are they blooming a little late, but some canes decided to really
grow past the others. Randomness within pattern.

Like Ocotillo? How about this composition? Ocotillos against that sky in warm light, and the
ground plane and ocotillos softened with Chino Grama clumps and a few creosote bushes.

This shall be applied to some landscapes, even though Chino Grama is unavailable in the
trade, at least that I know.

Gary Nored, a volunteer and photographer at the state park, took me all over Friday, and that
was definitely worth staying that extra day. I'll have to post some on just that part of my
journey. And with a large state like Texas or New Mexico, let alone the vast and varied
Desert SW, we only scratched the surface of the surface.

Ocotillos don't seem this common in any southwest desert ecoregion, even in the Chihuahuan
Desert, except in this portion of it near the Big Bend, which is just into the ecoregion's core.

Do you notice those straight lines in nature? Fissures develop in bedrock and boulders along fracture lines, and voila - places form for storm runoff to collect and infiltrate (passive water harvesting), some rain gets stored in the cracks (active water harvesting), to collect for future use. Soil also blows in for roots to develop, and then the grasses fill in. I forgot to look at the species (maybe little bluestem?), but I can assure you it's not tired, overused-mesic Karl Foerster or maiden grasses.

And a Desert Candle in the distant before you drop off into the depths of the canyons of the Big Bend, and Mexico beyond.

Desert Candle / Dasylirion leiophyllum growing in alternating fissures, with a few other xeric
native species. Process and pattern; not random chaos.

A native plant is most definitely more than just a plant that's native somewhere.

I can see that scene abstracted into some low garden walls (cheaper than enough huge
boulders to create those divisions), with sotols or beargrasses between them.

You may recall my past post of a trip to the New Braunfels TX area, where the Guadalupe River was lined with bald cypresses, and rounded limestone outcroppings rose above the clear, cool water. In this part of the desert, there's a short-lived water action and different geology. But a similar process and pattern.

And another Desert Candle.

Sat-Sun, El Cosmico in Marfa - my campsite (mine is the red tent L in back) in the Chihuahuan desert grassland

Soaptree or Palmilla / Yucca elata scattered all over. Hope you like it; there's more! And Arizona Cottontop clumps (or little bluestem?_, within a mix of seeded fescue and wild Buffalograss, at least from the dormant stolons. More on this place later.

Some areas of El Cosmico are not developed yet, but the dreaded soaptrees are not only around, but volunteering everywhere.

Feels just like home or anywhere in-between. I think this was a planter for something else, or more likely, a fire ring.

Beaked Yucca or Zoyate / Y. rostrata behind a young Soaptree, at one of their refurbished trailers you can rent for much more than my $12 / night campsite.....

But so spare, made so locally-grounded by both yuccas.

Under an hour left to tour the concrete cube sculptures at the Chinati Foundation. One of their
converted military buildings, with Chihuahuan desert grassland filling in the voids.

And more soaptrees.

Some will only see the thick cover of Blue Grama and some Sideoats Grama, but a more careful
look reveals more soaptrees clumping about. And that late afternoon light.

Some of Donald Judd's concrete cubes, to challenge one's aesthetic senses and to ponder the vastness or plays of light. Not to mention scattered clumps of Soaptree hiding in the sunlit grasses.

I read about Christy Ten Eyck's design work for the Capri event space years ago, and here's
a taste. I like much of it, though not all. But the fact that none of the planted shrubs like creosote
bushes are massacred into gum drops or cylinders says much, causing me to smile.

Thompson Yucca / Y. thompsoniana providing green form and shadow on a smooth wall plane.

This opening in a hedge of Spineless or Cacanapa Prickly Pear / Opuntia ellisiana directs one to the focal point - the covered porch and front door. Succulent simplicity. I could own this house!

But work and home call, after an evening relaxing between cocktails, dinner, sitting in on a broadcast at KRTS, and some fun with some locals and fellow visitors around the teepee campfire at Planet Marfa.

One person there said, "what happens at the Planet Marfa teepee goes on You Tube." (glad I got out in time, to avoid that :-)


















28 comments:

  1. David, As always, I so enjoy seeing your photos from the desert, it's really like an alien landscape compared to my typical sights (or sites) here in CT. It sounds like you had quite a memorable Thanksgiving.

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    1. Thanks for visiting - yes, and with that distance, Mars was not much further. But all worth it, and memorable!

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  2. Loved the post and comments. Would not mind spending time in such a place. Lots of stimulations around.

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    1. Thanks - I can't wait to post on some other aspects of that trip, and some of the natural patterns and gardens in town that I saw. Even though like Abq, Marfa has already had a hard freeze or two and is dormant.

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  3. So much beauty to be absorbed in these photos...simply gorgeous. Thanks for the perfect counter to my wet, green, Thanksgiving.

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    1. Enjoy - I corrected the photos here, so they are now sharper than what my laptop's program could do. I thought of you seeing all that spiky territory!

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  4. It`s ridiculous that I live in Texas and have not been. You are much closer, of course, but a camp in that area would be way cool. Thanks for sharing. When I come west, I tend to go to NM.

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    1. Not so ridiculous, given how far most of TX is from there - but you would like it. Just bring your own BBQ, as I saw none in Marfa, but maybe in Alpine? Very restorative and inspiring there!

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    2. Amazingly, the day I write this comment, I get a call from a friend who has built a home near Terlingua, inviting me to go out there with him this weekend. It`s a 10 hour jaunt, but I`m excited to go ,camera in hand !

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    3. Ha ha! I hear it's a requirement for men in Terlingua to have a pony tail, so if you don't, they will know you aren't from 'round there. Should be fun, interesting natural places all around, plus I think things to do.

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    4. I think hair is a prerequisite for a pony tail. I`m SOL. :)

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    5. Then you can become an outlaw biker in NM or AZ...here, it's all about shaving your head even if you have hair (or going for the Santa Claus look), and riding your Harley endlessly!

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  5. I could see you living in that house, too. Nice photos!

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    1. It was so cool, as were other houses there! Thanks, and I hope you also liked your D. leiophyllum cousins :-)

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  6. Thanks for my desert fix! So beautiful and we will be seeing all this right after Christmas.

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    1. You're welcome, and I'm glad you both will get back to Tucson in not too much longer.

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  7. Great photos of the light on the "alien" landscape. Stories like this one take me back to my childhood adventures of visiting my uncle in El Paso and grandparents west of ABQ. Glad you pointed out that the plants are dormant, sometimes hard to tell since our epic drought.

    Marfa can only exist in that one place on this planet.

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    1. I bet it was an adventure...still is! It looked fairly good there, but still hurting.

      There's a "Mar" in both Mars and Marfa...something to ponder.....

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  8. Love that you visited Judd's works and the environs of Marfa, I've always wanted to go, and to see Alpine too. The great little paper, Big Bend Gazette covers some goings on, but your shots and narrative were a treat. happy trails!

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    1. Thanks for visiting here. I only got to see that one area, as the other Chinati venues are 2-6 hour tours...perhaps next time. Actually, I needed 6 hours just at the cubes! I need to read that paper again...I think it's online. Same to you!

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  9. Yay Big Bend Ranch! We did the Rancherias trial for our honeymoon - bonding! Yep...drinking from the first spring that was a puddle...bonding! These pictures take me back. Breathtaking is the only word that comes to mind. It is such a magical place...sacred!

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    1. Those are both some serious bonding methods. Magical and sacred = good descriptors of that area. Everyone should get some of that in the wild every so often!

      And yay to my getting your latest blog version to feed into my blog roll!

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  10. Living the life of an art film are you?

    XO T

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    1. Well-stated! And I think I just might be...

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  11. Chinati is on "some day" my life list, but now I need to add to the list experiencing Chino Grama. What a great plant! Thanks for the tour--and the list-building.

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    1. You're welcome - and I think I need to start my high desert nursery! And any plant that looks as good dead or dormant as alive is one for me!

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  12. Great blog! I particularly like the Chino Gramma shot!

    Gary

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    1. Thanks! And you'll notice I'm not the only fan of Chino Grama...a plant that rocks after drought-kill, let alone when alive, says much.

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