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Food Politics and Hunger in Borderlands Arizona

This short film was one of five picked from 1,300 entries that won this year’s Sundance Institute’s Short Film Challenge. Native Seeds is right here in Patagonia. Avalon Gardens has outstanding sustainable farming practices (despite unfortunately being a cult based around the personality of a man who believes he is the supreme commander of the solar system, or something like that). It’s just eight minutes. Check out the film on Video.com, a very cool video site.
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January 2014: Mold Slows Me Down

It’s early August and I’m catching up blog entries by posting monthly summaries: * January: I’ve been here close to two months when I notice my health starts declining. As wonderful as this camp site is, it is close to a creek, full of dying mesquite trees covered in lichens, on top of fertile soil covered in two kinds of mushrooms — a giant type with dark ‘dust’ inside and a smaller button-sized species. Plus, the site used to be an animal corral, so every day I walk over old horse manure. A pig, chickens and other critters also lived here. An old stock pond at the edge of camp is dried out now...
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Ranchers Not the Problem: Public Lands Management Is

Now that I’ve been better educated about ranching in a recent educational conversation with a management-track cowboy and a woman equally informed about ranching, I am going to venture some conclusions about cow pies, cattle and public lands management. Here are highlights of the points made by the man and woman with whom I spoke the weekend before last: When I stated my willingness to be educated about ranching, I noted that I like my grass-fed beef as much as the next steak lover. The cowboy informed me that the cattle on the ranges are not the cattle that get butchered for food. They’re the breeders. The calves become the food; adult cows make...
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Confirmed: Cows ARE Everywhere

Last night a young man employed by a large local ranch and a woman equally informed about ranching gave me a good education about cattle and land management. First, my impressions are correct: Right now cows are everywhere. In fact, the young man works for the ranch that is running cattle through the area in which I’m currently camping. They’ve just gotten started, he says. There are many more cows to come. So, I asked, trying to find a place to camp on public land that has no cows is impossible right now? Yes, he said, at least within cell phone range. (I need cell phone reception in order to continue working. Plus it’s...
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Displaced by Cattle AGAIN

Cattle are EVERYWHERE. I saw them in the area (i.e. between cattle guards) driving to the site two nights ago. The next morning about a dozen ambled by 50 feet from the car. I piled the tents and the outdoor rugs I use for dog beds on top of the army cot someone gave me. “Cows will walk over everything,” someone pointed out recently. Last night, after the heavy rain that left both dogs wet and me curled up around Carlos’ seat, I opened the door to let Carlos out and he immediately barked. I swore, called him back in and closed the door. A while later I opened it and Carlos exited without...
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Carlos Brings Home Fly Nectar

Take a look at the pic: Carlos’ hair is brown on the neck and chest, not the back. The brown wet crap on the back is just that: cow crap. The two dogs came back from a morning romp wet. It’s possible the “swimming hole” they discovered is the cattle tank a while up the road. I wish Carlos had rolled in cow pies first and THEN swum. I made the mistake of rinsing him right next to the car — i.e. this campsite’s best parking spot. Liquified cow shit sank into the soil, creating a spa for the flies that woke me up every day since. Contrary to previous inclinations, I have been...
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Failing to Find a Feasible Campsite, I Camp Amongst the Masses

I am more discouraged today than since I started living in my car. I no longer know where to look for camp sites that meet all my criteria: a) cell phone coverage b) a low frequency of fresh cow pies c) not near a horse trail so my dogs don’t harass the horses or interact with riders’ dogs d) level, and e) shade. I spent all afternoon looking east and north of my previous campsite, which is now covered in wildfire smoke. A horseback rider had told me that USFS land to the south had neither cattle nor horse trails, but I could neither open nor close the wire and stick fences on that...
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Smoke Relocation Unearths Cow Pies and Ashy Dirt; I Yell and Dance for “Bear”

Someone at the store suggested yesterday that I relocate to a canyon south of here and at a higher elevation. I wish I had thought of it when I drove into town Sunday night and saw the smoke layer covering much of the valley. Now it’s pack and unpack again — not that I have that much. On the drive up through the canyon we passed through one of the most beautiful hilly meadows I’ve ever seen. I stepped out of the car and was assaulted by flies. Cow pies. Everywhere. The rough dirt roads that climbed into various canyons branching off and adjacent to the main one were mostly empty of people, as...
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Bushwhackers or Drug Runners?

early morning: Damn. Company. And not just horses, cows and dogs. I heard a large vehicle approaching from the meadow side, too close to be on the “main” dirt road. Shortly after, I started hearing knocking sounds in a steady slow rhythm, a couple or a few at a time then stop. If it wasn’t implausible, I’d say someone is building something over there. More likely is it’s a bushwhacking crew trimming dead trees and brush, as part of the USFS fire maintenance program. They had a crew on the strip of land across the fence, where they are running cattle now (no relation). But I don’t hear chain saws. (Maybe a mining company taking...
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These Bees Don’t Play Nice

Bee swarms. I hear them sometimes out here in the meadow grasslands. They are not something I want to go look for. “Africanized bees” have taken over the previous domestic wild honey bee strains in Arizona. They set up colonies in trees. If you hear a tree buzzing, give it a very wide berth. If one bee decides you are a threat, they will all attack. People and pets have died from the sheer multitude of resulting stings. If attacked, they say do not go underwater because the bees will just wait for you. If you take shelter in a car, close the vents. Come to think of it, I don’t know how to...
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Trees, Water, Life, Death

We have two kinds of trees in southeastern Arizona, above the desert and below the higher altitude pines. Well, really three kinds: Scrub oak, juniper, and dead. There’s a lot of the latter after … how long has this drought gone on? A couple decades? Dead trees and dry riverbeds have become normal. I have to assume there was a time when droughts were shorter, Arizona was lush, desert wildflowers did not merit headlines after a good winter’s rain, and no matter where you lived you knew the location of the nearest swimming hole. When I moved here I was astonished that pretty much all the rivers are dry. I have occasionally seen a...
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Location, Location, Location

April 30 , 2013 The next day I drove a little farther up the main road and found another rough dirt road that winds through trees and meadows. Taking it to the end, I set out to find shade. Shade is a valuable resource in the Southwest. My larger dog, Carlos, proved to be the best shade scout of the three of us. He found a large juniper tree that was less scraggly than others. So, in the afternoon we hung out on one side. At night I parked on the other side, so that the early morning sun didn’t hit the car until mid-morning. Grass here often goes together with small (under 12″...
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