October 31, 2010


Aeden circles the true meaning of Halloween

Our October Zuni social life overfloweth. So many parties, so many treats. How is that not a good time?

Aeden and Ellie dressed up as a pirate and shark, respectively.

Last night was the branch trunk-or-treat. The young men were en-charged with pumpkin carving and the pinata---the biggest hits of the night. Telia and I also entered the chili cook off and cake auction. It was a lot of fun. My greatest surprise was the pinata itself. I have been constructing it since last week, hoping every moment that it didn't break before the kids actually hit it. It was made of some flimsy scrap cardboard, four twisted coat hangers, one layer of paper mache, 200 feet of hand cut crepe paper and a small amount of duct tape. It was under engineered and liable to spontaneously spill its contents.

It literally took a beating from twenty kids before it shewed forth its candy. Exclamation point for me!

I heard that Zunis will trick or treat all night. I also heard that the adults trick or treat. We shall see.

Anyway, things are starting to cool off. We have two electric radiators we move through the house to keep it warm. We are doing everything to not use propane to heat the house. Some of my colleagues report paying up to $600.00 a month in propane to heat their homes during the winter. That is madness. These homes are poorly insulated, built on a slab overlied with thin linoleum tiles without a wood burning stove or a fire place. It makes me wonder if the gas companies paid off the contractor.

I spoke with an alternative rental agency on Friday about getting into a smaller place on a raised foundation with a wood burning stove, for less money. The hospital uses its political flex to restrict these better insulated homes to physicians, but I plead my case. I pulled out all the stops and perhaps, by grace itself the rental agent finally relented and conceded to reserving a home for our family. She said it would take about 6 months to renovate, which in Zuni time I translate as about 8-10 months. Either way, this is a huge answer to our prayers.

The trade off is giving up our spacious rez mansion and, regrettably our chickens. I have already identified a lucky family in the branch who will be the recipients of a lovingly built coop, two roosters and four hens.

As for the other renovations provided by my father-in-law Tracy, I will take them with us. All of them --- the gravel, the fencing, the playhouse, everything. I will figure out a way. In the mean time however, we will continue to live in the abundance of our cold and spacious luxury home.
Aeden summons a disinterested hipster pirate face. 

"I can see you!" Our harvest display

Aeden paints the pumpkin pinata with a satisfied artsy smirk.

Ellie musters the spirit of a Great White Shark

Ellie looks like a shark cherub on a swing
Showing off the finished pinata. Notice the crepe paper. Please.

Aeden & Ellie at the Bandera Ice Caves

October 17, 2010


Tarantula on our sidewalk

Tarantulas migrate. Did you know that? Nobody really knows where to or from, but they pass through Zuni every year. I saw two. Telia saw five. Normally, I loathe, hate and despise arachnids of all kinds. They give me the creeps and I have taught Aeden to smash them, but I like tarantulas. First off, they are way too big to squash. They also have a mammal-like gentleness that, ironically, places these gigantic spiders in the category of unorthodox "warm, fuzzies."
Chaco outlier ruins circa 1200 AD
This last week Telia and I made it out to El Malpais National Monument twice, separately, exploring different areas. I hiked 7.5 miles of craggy black lava along the Zuni-Acoma trail with my friend Jeremy. Yesterday, Telia hiked 5 miles to a few old Chacoan ruins called the Dittert site with her friend Jennifer. As it turns out, "Malpais" is a Spanish term that literally means "bad country" but was commonly used to describe volcanic landscapes. Gnarled Junipers and Pinion Pines pop up along the trails of El Malpais. Supposedly, the curvier the trunk, the curvier the root system.

Tracy Strikes Again
Play structure of anglo-saxon origin in the Americas circa October 2010
Does it surprise you? Not me. He's generous, handy and loves his grand-kids. Check out the play structure he built for Aeden and Eliza!


I have wanted a great compost for a long time. Now that HOA's are a thing of the past, that time has come. The straw bale method involves digging down about 6-12", surrounding it with straw bales and using red worms at the bottom to accelerate the composting process. I built it yesterday and am really excited about getting started.

Baby Shower

Telia threw the most rocking baby shower ever for our friend Lori. I smuggled myself in can witness that it was fun in its informality. We tie-died onesies and listened to Bob Marley as Zunis, Navajos, Anglos (as we are called) and one woman from St. Thomas milled around enjoying the ambiance. There was SO much good food.


I have subscribed to a "song of the day" podcast from KEXP.
 It is available for free on iTunes. Yesterday, after downloading over 300 free songs, I have finally waded through the so-so and distilled my favorites to about 50 new songs and artists. If you're into music you should check it out. I can't believe it is legal, since I got titles like Peter Bjorn and John, Matt and Kim, She and Him, Rodrigo and Gabriela, Plants and Animals, Blitzen Trapper and Sufjan Stevens. And those are just a few of the names I knew already...

Anyway, now you are more or less caught up. Love you all. Enjoy the pictures.

Appreciating our fuzzy friend from a distance

A tarantula and daddy long legs on my garage wall
Aeden on the watch tower

This BLM ranger led Telia's hike. He possesses more knowlege than anyone person should have or share.
Our friend and colleage Jennifer Kim in front of an old abandoned homestead
Pure joy.
So cute. She was highlighting the keyboard

October 3, 2010

Hippies and Saints

The pies. Made from real farmers market pumpkins. Mmm-mmm.

This weekend has been wonderful. The kids are almost better.

Friday we went hiking over 3000 year old lava beds and explored Pie Town, NM.

Saturday, we went to the Ramah Harvest Festival, where Telia entered a pie contest and won first prize for her pumpkin pie. It was a lot of fun. Some hippies were selling this incredible Apple Green Chile Jam. I am wondering what life was like before.  We bought a jar.

Refrigerators are the best place for 1st place
After inspecting the hens and roosters there, we once again are wondering at the gender of our largest chicken: Olga or Dick? We still don't know, but now we are leaning toward Olga.

Today we have been listening to podcasts of General Conference due to our dial-up-esque bandwith. It is so slow. We will probably finish General Conference some time this week. So far, it is amazing and basic.

Also, I found a really cool spider that made a very intricate web with extremely strong silk. I think she is some sort of Orb weaver. Olga ate her up in two bites. Sorry, no picture.

Tonight for dinner we are having pumpkin pudding and butter biscuits with the apple green chile jam. Yum.

Literally 5 people walked by, looked at the kids, looked at me and said, "Well, now I guess you've got to get a bunny."
Our General Conference set up.

October 1, 2010

Pie Town, NM, population 35

For the past few weeks we have heard talk about a magical place called "Pie Town." From talking with neighbors, one would get the impression that if given the choice between heaven and Pie Town, you might be strongly tempted to kick it in Pie Town. So we went. It was a long drive down rural dirt roads, past several ranches, a mountain range and over ancient lava flows. Finally, we arrived. I don't know what we were expecting exactly. Telia thought maybe it would be really touristy and have the best pie ever. Even as I write this, I am not sure if I was disappointed or charmed, but it was interesting enough to capture our imaginations.

The story of how Pie Town got its name has a few versions, but my gut tells me the most accurate is in New Mexico's Continental Divide Trail Official Guide by Bob Julyan.

"The generally accepted story tells that in 1922, Clyde Norman opened a gas station here, calling it 'Norman's Place.' He liked to bake, so when he began selling homemade apple pies he changed his sign to read 'Pie Town.' Two years later, Norman Craig acquired the station and the pie-making business (Craig' wife now made the pies) and kept the sign. The pies were very popular, not only with road travelers but also with local ranchers and cowboys.  In 1927, the citizens of 'Pie Town' asked for a post office; local lore tells that when a postal inspector suggested a more conventional name, Craig told him, "It'll either be named Pie Town, or you can take your post office and go to hell." Craig knew best: Pie Town remains among New Mexico's most intriguing place names."

For all of its notoriety, Pie Town actually has only two restaurants where one can get pie. Pie-O-Neer and The Daily Pie Cafe. Of those, one was open. So we went to Pie-O-Neer, a quaint blend of rough and tumble rancher with New Mexican New Age. The decor was historical, eclectic, rustic and somehow hip. We were the only ones there.

When we asked the hostess if we could purchase an entire pie, she blushed and confessed they didn't have one, but offered us a "Pie-pourri," which amounts to putting left over pie slices into one pan. They only make 12 pies a day.

Telia and I shared a slice of peach pie. It was good. The crust alone evidenced lots of pie practice, but we should have had it heated up and sprung for the vanilla ice cream. The owner came out and let us sign the guest book. He used to be a medical illustrator at a teaching hospital in Virginia, but moved to Pie Town where he could better pursue his love for astronomy. He was a tall, lean, tan, soft spoken buddhist and I liked him.

For more information on what makes Pie Town tick check out www.pie-o-neer.com

Rte 603 to Pie Town, NM
Welcome to Pie Town
A gaggle of windmills on the way into downtown Pie Town

Sign for the Daily Pie Cafe. It was closed. 
Pie-O-Neer. You know its fancy because the plastic flamingoes

The other pie place. Also a notary public.
Is this the original "Norman's Place"?

September 30, 2010

Herpes Zoster

Did you know that Chickenpox is caused by a kind of herpes virus? Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV), actually. It belongs to the same family of viruses that cause cold sores (HSV1), mono (EBV) and, of course genital herpes (HSV2). Recurrent outbreaks of Varicella Zoster cause shingles. It is extremely contagious and more or less the worst thing ever. And...for the record it does not come from chickens.

My kids have it. Aeden got it first. Last week he came down with a violent fever and began to develop a series of blisters all over his little body. More like shingles. Ellie's case is manifesting itself as plain old, red, itchy Chickenpox.

Telia is going stir crazy taking care of two little clingy, feverish fussy babies. When I get home from work she looks really wiped out. If you're not a parent you can read this as: Less pay off for WAY more work.

Telia is pregnant. At the moment, this is a inconvenient for two reasons. First, taking care of two whiny sick kids is less pleasant when you are large with child. Secondly, and far more serious are the potential risks of contracting Chickenpox during the first and early second trimesters of pregnancy (weeks 8 - 20).  According to the CDC and Mayo Clinic, in about 0.4 - 2.0% of pregnant women who get Chickenpox may have a child with one or more of the following: 1.) mental retardation, 2.) malformed limbs, 3.) vision problems, 4.) scars on the skin and/or 5.) muscle/bone defects. Telia is is about 20 weeks along right now, which places us (hopefully) at lower risk. Also, Telia had Chickenpox when she was little so she is inoculated against an acute outbreak. So, hold the phone, we are probably fine.

Anyway, once you've had Chickenpox, it sticks with you for life. The virus actually lives, dormant, in your nerve cell bodies. If the virus wakes back up, it will affect the skin wired by that nerve. As a result, people with Shingles, or a recurrent VZV infection, will often form blisters in stripes horizontally across their body. Varicella actually means "belt" in Greek.

When I was a kid Chickenpox was a rite of passage. Everybody got it. Like falling off a bicycle or getting a black eye, it tied us to generations gone before. When the Chickenpox vaccine came out I was under the impression Chickenpox was going extinct like Smallpox and my kids would never understand the misery I once suffered. Someday I would tell them all about the itchy scabs that would leave scars. Unfortunately, they are learning all too well. On the upside, tonight Aeden was so tired he just walked into his bed and went to sleep.

September 19, 2010

Through his eyes

For some reason Aeden has been especially kind this week. I have witnessed him share crayons, crackers and trains with his sister Eliza. He has also been spreading his affection liberally with morning hugs and kisses on the cheek. He even held his sister's hand yesterday to steady her while she walked. Not to say he is perfect; tantrums and pushing still are not distant history, nor do I expect them to stop in the foreseeable future. All the same, I see an attenuation of poor behavior and a crescendo of kind, brotherly affection.

Beneath his limited ability to express himself, Aeden has a rich and colorful personality. Getting dressed for the day has changed in the last few weeks as he is more aware of his place in the world. Often he will point to the shirt Telia or I got out and say, "No, car shirt," or "No, Choo-choo shirt." This means whatever we picked out somehow displeases him and he would rather wear the pajama top with Lightning McQueen or Thomas the Train on it, respectively. Which is fine, but why does he even care? Is he some sort of male fashionisto? Is it a power thing? Is he THAT influenced by media already? Or does he just want to wear that shirt? I don't know.

One of Aeden's favorite past times is wandering around the house snapping what seem like random photographs ... but what if they aren't random? Afterall, the photos capture his perspective and communicate his world. Looking through the pictures reminds me of why I someday wanted to be a grown up---if for nothing else, the view. Not to mention being able to stay up late, watch movies and eat lots of icecream when everyone else is in bed. So unfair.

Here is some of Aeden's most recent work behind the lens.

September 12, 2010

Home Improvements

We live in United States Government quarters. Think of it as living in a rental house with really a really particular landlord. Officially, absolutely no home improvements should ever be made without an authorized work order. We even need a work order to change out light bulbs. Except things are a little relaxed on the reservation.The basic rule here is change everything back to the bleak condition you found it in. Consequently, anytime a resident moves there is a free for all to collect all the plants, planter boxes, etc. When it is our time to go I foresee physicians running around like kids after a busted pinata. You see, we have been very busy bees. At least Tracy, my father in law has. He came a few weeks ago to visit under the auspices of needing a break. Instead, he worked, worked and worked until our whole place was whipped into shape. Just to give you an idea of what he did we've included the photographic evidence, but even they don't tell the whole story. Highlights include a small fence, re-engineered our drainage with gravel, a gravel pathway (in our drip line),  a chicken run, a shelf in our garage, and a planter box.

By the time he was getting ready to leave I was feeling pretty outmatched. Like, "Does Telia expect me to be THIS industrious?" I don't know. I have made some small improvements too, but it is well understood that Tracy is the Man. Thanks Tracy. No, really. Thanks. I just wish we had "before" photos.

Telia and I built the coop and wired the run. We're really proud of it

Tracy built the planter box and ran drainage pipe under the gravel
The fence hides our garbage can and miscellaneous items

This is a walkway and a rain run off solution by Tracy

Notice the absence of weeds under the clothesline. Telia and I did that.

Inner and outer courtyards of the Chicken Sanctuary

Rooster? preparing to antagonize our chicks

This chicken previously known as "Olga" is being renamed "Richard"

Telia slips a smile while I write this post. Notice 2 pans of cinnamon rolls