Our private superbloom: Navajo Tea in Navajo!

Seven years past the first time I witnessed a superbloom here in the foothills of southern Colorado, we are having an even bigger one again, right around my home. We live in the Navajo Ranch area smack dab between the towns of Walsenburg and La Veta Colorado.

This is Navajo Tea also known as greenthread, the common names given to multiple species within the genus Thelesperma. This species is a native of the Great Plains and mountain states.

Thelespermas are used by a number of the southwestern Native American peoples as herbal teas, earning the plant common names like Navajo Tea or Hopi Tea. The plant can be boiled whole until the water turns a rusty color and used as a tea. Historically it has also been used as a medicinal remedy and for yellow dyes.

Here are a few local views of our superbloom:

Here is a hillside of flowers with the Spanish Peaks as a rainy backdrop…

Fields of flowers with Mount Mestas in the distance…

And just plain fields of flowers! What a grand spring surprise for us!

Mid-June Colorado Foothills Garden Notes

WOW, it was plenty HOT here yesterday! We got over 90 degrees, which almost never happens up here at 7,000 feet. My new plants were not pleased, but those that have been here for the past few years were fine. Here’s a photo summary of what is happening in my garden.

First of all, this is what my “sky garden” looked like in June 2019. We had just completed the hardscaping at this point!

These day in the far east end I am nursing a new plant, an Icelandic Poppy, and so far so good in spite of all the wind we’ve had lately. My Jupiter’s Beard at the end is struggling but still hanging in.

Lavender absolutely loves it up here! And that large Jupiter’s Beard on the left is thriving too.

I forget the name of these cute little yellow flowers, but they sure are tough! Then I have a couple of different penstemons in this grouping near one of my lavender plants. The Blue-mist Spirea bushes with start blooming in July.

This is a view of mid-garden with the steps. Yarrow dominates this area. It seems to be pleased with itself. My native Four-O’Clock is slowly creeping out from under Buddha and that big Catmint plant. It got hit hard by the big snow we had the end of May, that almost froze all the flower heads off! My green shamrock is in the foreground. Thanks Mike!

My west end is mostly new or native plants. So excited to see that yellow Evening Primrose start to bloom this morning! The native sunflowers are everywhere over there and I just planted a “Little Kim Lilac” bush over there. Sure hope it survives the wind! Check out a few of Mike’s creations, the metal sculpture and his horseshoe wind chime under the Bluebird’s box.

I should also include this central square of flowers, the first place I planted anything about four years ago. Can you find my metal coil dog? That’s one of Mike’s more recent creations.

Happy to be home!

After just two days up in the northern Colorado cities, Mike and I are always so happy to come home! Speaking as someone with a brain injury, cities increase my stress level immediately, even as we drive north through Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Denver. In summary, being there exhausts my brain energy so quickly. There is also the stress of staying in a different house with different people. All I know is that I need to sleep a lot after I get home to “catch up” on my mental comfort level and health. Of course, psychologists have known for years that:

“City living can chip away at your psychological immune system, which can be precarious for those with a family history of mental illness. According to psychologists , this environmental stress can increase their risk of developing a psychiatric condition, such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.”

As we drive south out of the metro parts of Colorado, we both breathe a gigantic sigh of relief. We love to return to the life that we love in one of the least populated and developed counties in Colorado. We find slow, quiet, and peaceful is great for our sanity! Our passive solar home always stays cool for free while we’re gone. I miss my garden and Mike misses his cat Rosie when we go on trips.

This is our reward for moving down here six years ago now… Try to beat that view from your back porch! When I first met Mike he said he wasn’t moving again unless it was to somewhere where he wasn’t looking at the house across the street. Success at last!

I immediately go outside and check on my plants. Luckily nobody got eaten while we were gone 🙂

And yes, I do have some native plants coming up too, like this yucca, a transplanted Cholla cactus and some evening primrose. I sure hope the Cholla decides to bloom this July! It’s flowers are a bright magenta color.

Postscript: The funniest thing I witnessed on our drive through Denver was a trucking company named: “Follow me to Jesus, Inc.” No shit!

Do you feel marginalized as you age? I do.

Perhaps you’ve heard about a new article in The Atlantic by Science journalist Ed Yong entitled:

“The Final Pandemic Betrayal.” Mr. Yong won the Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for this “series of lucid, definitive pieces on the COVID-19 pandemic that anticipated the course of the disease, synthesized the complex challenges the country faced, illuminated the U.S. government’s failures and provided clear and accessible context for the scientific and human challenges it posed.

The subtitle of Mr. Yong’s latest article from April 2022 is:

“Millions of people are still mourning loved ones lost to COVID, their grief intensified, prolonged, and even denied by the politics of the pandemic.” I saw an interview with him this week that really hit home for me. At least nine million of us have lost someone we knew and cared for and yet it seems we just go on, ignoring the tremendous losses to so many. In just two years, COVID became the third most common cause of death in the U.S., which means that it is also the third leading cause of grief.

“Each American who has died of COVID has left an average of nine close relatives bereaved, creating a community of grievers larger than the population of all but 11 states. Under normal circumstances, 10% of bereaved people would be expected to develop prolonged grief, which is unusually intense, incapacitating, and persistent. But for COVID grievers, that proportion may be even higher, because the pandemic has ticked off so many risk factors.”

In his recent interview, Mr. Yong discussed what is for me the most important aspect of this horrible loss of life. The groups hardest hit were “marginalized” sections of our society. Who are they? The elderly, those chronically ill, the weakened, the brown, the black and low income groups who have less access to decent health care.

My experience in the past eight years, as I grow older and my own health declines, has been a movement from a “normal” person to one who definitely feels marginalized. First with the aging process we slowly become invisible in our culture, or worse, someone who should just get out of the way of the younger and more vital. Yes, it’s true some help me with doors and seem to feel some compassion for my difficult circumstances, but I have experienced a pulling away from others as I have become more disabled. I have found it almost impossible to make true friends in this rural area. It seems just about nobody believes I am worth their time and energy. I don’t think I would have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

In this way I have learned what “marginalized” means in this country. We have always put an emphasis on being healthy and able-bodied, and when I was also healthy I rarely noticed what happened to those who are not. Yes, I do have financial resources unlike so many Americans, but I do not live by bread alone. Thanks to those of you who have made an effort to welcome us here. And to the rest of you, I hope you don’t ever become elderly and need a friend.

Mid-May Colorado Foothills Garden Notes

At a little over 7,000 feet here in southern Colorado, buds are just beginning to pop out!

except for my crazy honeysuckle bush. She insists on flowering way too early!

The first flowers, the tiny irises and the Turkish Veronica, came out in the first week in May…

and our native penstemon and Catmint flowers soon followed.

I love the anticipation each spring. What will come out next and what have I forgotten I planted last summer?

Mostly I love sitting out in my garden in the early mornings, listening to the birds, watching the Rocky Mountain bluebirds feed their chicks, soaking in the sun’s warmth, and that unmistakable feeling of pure joy and peace. I find this to be the perfect antidote for the news and the general feeling of fear and anxiety in our world today…

I’m living one day at a time now. That is all we have.

A trip to Abiquiu New Mexico, May 2022

In what seems like ancient history now, soon after we met I took Mike down to Abiquiu, a tiny town in northern New Mexico. I loved it there and hoped he would feel the same…

This is the land of red rocks, cacti and Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch…

When we visited in 2007 we decided to look for some land and start thinking about living there in our future. We even choose a piece of land, but then decided to reconsider.

Eventually, on one of our many trips over to see my brother in Durango, we decided we like it better up here in southern Colorado, with its wonderful open skies and spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristos. It’s certainly more moist here too!

On this trip I found the area around Abiquiu so dry and dessicated. We were both glad we didn’t choose to move there. The climate in this area is certainly changing. It is getting drier every year. Glad we chose a cooler, wetter place to put down roots for the last time.

In spite of smoke coming up from the New Mexican wildfires, our new Rocky Mountain Bluebird family seems to agree!