My new neighborhood

My neighborhood is in south Santa Fe. It has a large park-like trail system that crisscrosses the neighborhood and circles through pinyon-juniper forest. The pinyon-juniper woodlands include typical understory vegetation like the yellow-flowered rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa, commonly known as chamisa), prickly pear cacti, and agaves. The small arroyo (dry wash) pictured empties into the Santa Fe River. The Santa Fe River flows west to the Rio Grande River, which joins with other regional river like the Pecos. The river flows through northeast Mexico and eventually flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Within the developed part of the neighborhood, the landscaping is irrigated and includes many fruit trees and shrubs, including apples, apricots, plums, peaches, and barberries. I easily collected a large bowl of apples on the pictured walk. Last year, the HOA built a community garden with raised beds; I need to get on the waiting list for nest year.

At almost the identical elevation to Flagstaff (7,000 feet), Santa Fe is further away from the nearest mountain range, the Sangre de Christos to the east, than Flagstaff is from the San Francisco Peaks, so the climate is a little warmer (five to 10°F) and the monsoon rains tend to happen later in the afternoon and evening than in Flagstaff (monsoon storms begin the mountains and repeatedly re-create themselves as they move away from their origins and down in elevation). Mornings are almost always sunny. The Jemez mountains are to the west. To the south are the Sandia and Cerillos peaks. Catholic Franciscan missionaries got here before other European religious denominations and named everything they could in the Southwest, often after St. Francis De Assisi; Flagstaff’s main north-south street is San Francisco St., while Santa Fe’s is St. Francis Dr.

Across the main east-west road in southern Santa Fe is a section of the city’s wonderful fully paved urban trail system named after rabbitbrush (Arroyo De Los Chamisos Trail). The view from my bike (last photo) is what I get to see on nearly every trip to the north and east of my neighborhood. A lot of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) grows along the arroyo. The Rail Trail runs through the city alongside a commuter train track connecting Santa Fe and Albuquerque; that trail has a much more urban feel to it because it heads directly downtown. I bicycle on the roads as little as possible, mainly towards a shopping district to my west.

Solar cooking in my Santa Fe backyard

Most of my new backyard faces west and north and is heavily shaded by trees. However, a strip of land along the northern side of the house receives plenty of sunlight between the morning and early afternoon during the couple of months on either side of the summer solstice. I’ve decided to use my solar cooker there, directly on the ground, for now. Monsoon clouds and rain tend to appear in the afternoons when that piece of land is shaded by the house anyway. I like this location because there is easy access to the kitchen through the patio door and the dining room. I am storing the cooker uncovered underneath the patio overhang to protect it from rain. During late fall, winter, and early spring, I’ll have to use the cooker in front of my house, which faces south; that location will require carrying food up and down half a flight of stairs, and through the front door and front gate, and storing the cooker in the garage.

I’ve moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sustainable food and gardening blog posts to resume shortly.

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A new friend took my and Dan’s photo with our decked-out bicycles and bicycling gear this morning after a vegan get-together. We moved into our new house in Santa Fe, which is at 7,000 feet just like Flagstaff, Arizona, earlier this month. Our new house is now a mostly functional household and I have more time for blogging. We have a yard with a rainwater roof storage tank, I’ve started grinding flour again and baking sourdough bread, my new neighborhood has its own community garden, and I’ve even done some urban foraging, picking some of the ripe apricots on fruit trees all over the city. The front of my house is perfect for solar cooking, too. I have yet to join the local food cooperative and a natural foods buying club. I have also been invited to give presentations on sustainable food. More photos and posts coming soon.

It’s getting close to moving time

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I’ve been packing up all of my kitchen and cooking tools and equipment in stages. I packed my Global Sun Oven in a large box using the blanket pieces from my fireless cooker as padding. The Sun Oven reflectors fold up neatly  across the oven door, and there is a latch that holds the reflector snugly against the oven body. I placed a piece of bubble wrap in between the glass door and the reflectors to protect the glass.

Solar cooking forgotten lentils in the pantry

I’m in the process of packing for our move to Santa Fe, New Mexico. One thing I’m doing is cooking remaining foods in storage so that there is less stuff to move. I found this several-year-old jar of brown lentils in the pantry. Lentils last forever, at least in terms of human lifetimes, making them good for long-term/emergency storage.

I decided to cook the entire jar. Now that the summer solstice is fast approaching, the rod at the back of my solar cooker is adjusted so that the cooker face is almost horizontal to capture the most sunlight during the middle of the day when the sun is almost directly overhead. Lentils are quick-cooking legumes and don’t need pre-soaking.

Lentils are cool season legumes that grows well at high altitudes. In hot climates like the Middle East, Ethiopia and India, where they are staples of local cuisines, they are grown during the cooler months. In my climate, however, they are grown during the summer.

Eating New Mexican sopapillas at La Fonda in Santa Fe, New Mexico

I’m in the process of moving from Flagstaff, Arizona to Santa Fe, New Mexico (which is why I haven’t posted much lately). Both cities are at 7,000 feet elevation. Unlike the American cowboy-influenced landscape of northern Arizona, however, Santa Fe has very strong Spanish, Mexican and Pueblo influences on its food, architecture and more. Santa Fe was founded 400 years ago as the Spanish colonial capital of what was then Mexico’s northernmost territory.

My husband, Dan, had never eaten sopapillas before, a New Mexican fried doughnut-like treat. He lived in San Antonio, Texas for a few years growing up, but Tex-Mex cuisine is different from New Mexican cuisine. Sopapillas are not found in Texas.

I love the restaurant inside the historic adobe La Fonda hotel in downtown Santa Fe, so we went there to eat sopapillas. Traditionally, the dough is rolled out very thin (an eighth- to quarter-inch thick) and cut into triangular or rectangular pieces, deep fried, and served immediately with a pitcher of warmed honey. Just like pita bread, the thin dough puffs up when suddenly exposed to high heat, which creates an inner pocket, making the pastries look like little pillows. You eat a sopapilla by tearing off a small piece of a corner and pour in some honey (warmed light agave syrup makes a good vegan alternative to honey).

The dough is traditionally a yeast dough, originally sourdough. Sometimes today, baking powder is used as an alternative leavener. I’ve made the sourdough version, and it is definitely the most flavorful way to make sopapillas. We had fun eating them.

A sunny, warm spring day at 7,000 feet

Well, a few days from the start of spring. I solar cooked some long grain brown rice with turmeric to eat with stir-fry leftovers. Afternoon temperatures have been in the mid-60s, so I’m putting the fig tree on the balcony for a few hours every day. I also baked another loaf of whole wheat bread and soaked soy beans for making soy milk in the evening.