Monday, June 26, 2017

So HOT! (No, the other kind.)

Usually when someone exclaims, "So hot!" our first thought might be they've discovered a sizzling romance hero...or maybe a sizzling Romance, period. Today I'm going to blog about the other kind of hot, the one having to do with temperature.

Because, yeah folks. It's HOT!

Our thermometer has been pushing triple digits, and occasionally hitting them, for two weeks now. June is always the hottest month for us here in the Southwest US. Once July rolls around the monsoons start (*knock on wood*) and everything cools down and sheds the parched shades of yellow for a lush green palette. But at the moment, everything's pretty crispy.

Yup, that's a photo of a camel that I took from my car.
Told you it gets hot!

Our heat tends to be quite comfortable, due to the low humidity. It's 98 degrees out? No problem. The humidity is generally 10 percent or less. Grab a lemonade and a chair in the shade and it's about as close to heaven as you can get. We don't get the extremes like they do in southern New Mexico or Arizona where it can hit 120 degrees or more, because we're high. Really high. They call Denver the Mile High City? Pshaw! We're at 6,700 feet. Helloooo, down there. It tends to stay pretty tolerable up here in the stratosphere. But even so, there are some dangers that come with the heat.

Wildfires. Big fires are often sparked by dry lightning storms...and careless campers. We've had years where wildfires have scorched huge portions of our state's land. Guess where Smokey Bear originated? Yup. The original model was discovered as a tiny little orphaned cub with the singed paws clinging to a smoldering tree in Lincoln County in the 1950s. The national symbol for forest fire prevention was a native of New Mexico. Fitting, that. We've had forest fires get seriously close to taking out Los Alamos National Lab, several Native American ruins including Bandelier National Monument, scorch hundreds of thousands of acres of forest, and eradicate rural neighborhoods. We have friends with yards that are now filled with charred tree stumps, because that's how close a wildfire came to their homes. Others weren't quite so lucky as to have fires burn only their surroundings. :(

A photo of the massive Cerro Grande fire
taken from the International Space Station.
Photo credit Albuquerque Journal, 2000.

Snakes. Being cold-blooded, the hotter is gets, the more they move about. In the day, they seek out a nice shady spot, like curled beneath that tree near the sidewalk or stretched out behind the rainwater collection tanks. Or maybe a nice, cool building--like the barns or garages--if they can gain entry. [Has flashbacks to last summer. Eek!] During the night, they'll seek out warmth...the cement patio outside our door will do nicely. As a rule, they don't bother us and we don't bother them, unless we accidently disturb them. Even so, they aren't a problem unless they happen to start coiling and rattling. If they look very similar to a rattlesnake in color and pattern--but no rattles and no viper head--then we've hit the jackpot. Bullsnake! Having these residents around tends to keep the rattlers away. Probably why we've seen more than one Bullsnake this year, but nary a rattler. But then we've been watching for them. It's when we stop watching that they tend to show up. Surprise!

I got one of those surprises Friday when I almost stepped on a four-foot Bullsnake who had stretched out in the grass along the edge of our lower patio. After several attempts to shoo him off (he wasn't impressed), he relented and slithered under a shady pine next to where I turn out our little dogs. I kept a close eye on him while they got some exercise. Bullsnakes aren't poisonous but they are constrictors, so I don't want them mistaking our rabbit-size mini-dachshunds for dinner.

[I didn't have my cell phone with me, so you're spared a photo of the snake.]

Water. Or actually, lack of it. Until you've turned on a faucet and nothing comes out, you may not understand the terror that having no water can bring. We're very rural, so being tied into a water system isn't an option, and we depend greatly on our well. Without water, life gets really hard, really fast. There's no swamp cooler without water, and temps soar to 100 degrees in the house. No water for the horses, plants, trees or grass and they all tend to die rather quickly. We live in a closed basin, meaning that rivers don't bring fresh water into the aquifer. What's in the ground is all there is. Okay, it's the ancient remnants of a prehistoric sea, but's finite. When it gets this hot and no rain falls to renew the water table, we get a bit nervous. We get a little more nervous every year as more and more people move to the area, sink more wells, and then decide they need another @#$! golf course. I think we already have plenty of those already, thank you very much.

The good news is that June only lasts for a little over four weeks and we're already into the home stretch. Wait! Is that a cloud I see on the horizon? We can only hope!

Pasture, before monsoons.
Pasture, after monsoons.

Edited to add update:
Immediately after I finished this post last week, we had a scare. A wildfire broke out just on the other side of the San Pedro range only a few miles away from our property. Fortunately, they sent in fire trucks and slurry bombers and had it quickly contained and out within 24 hours. Whew! Then, on Saturday afternoon, we were blessed with our first monsoonal rainstorm. It was wonderful and refreshing and brought a lot of much needed moisture, as well as reducing the temperature a good 30 degrees--and bringing the humidity up to about 70%. Hopefully, this has signaled an early onset of our monsoon season this year and we won't have to worry so much about the fire potential going forward.

Enjoy your week...and stay cool!

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