Saturday, February 28, 2015

Open 2015

Silent Running
Opening March 10 and ending April 3 I’ll be part of the exhibition Open 2015 at PhotoPlace Gallery in Middlebury, Vermont. This will be my fourth group show at PhotoPlace. I am honored to have had "Silent Running" selected by the esteemed educator and photographer Jeff Curto, Professor Emeritus of the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

It’s hard enough to choose images to submit to shows with themes. It’s something else again to select a handful of images from about a million. Ever since I started to develop the Fog Series in 2013 it has hovered near the surface of my consciousness so when choosing photographs to submit all were from that series. I happen to know Jeff has a poetic streak and may even have a soft spot for lyrical images.

Appropriately enough Silent Running was taken during the Putney Regatta on the Connecticut River in Putney, Vermont several years back. It's rather pictorialist I think, something Alfred Stieglitz relegated to the photographic dust bin a century ago. Maybe it's coming back.

To see all the images in the show click on the link below and page down.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Pie in the sky

The history of homesteading in America began with the Homestead Act of 1862 and continued through 1950s mostly in Alaska and the great barrens of Southern California. In the Homestead Act of 1938 five acre patches of the Morongo Valley east of Twentynine Palms were leased to the delusional for $5.00 and the pledge to develop the land in the most minimal way. For most that was to build a simple cabin or buy one pre-built for $1,000 or so. Water, alas, was not as easily accessed and at the sole expense of said lessee. For those who created a habitable abode a “Patent”, a kind of ownership, was awarded. 

It should be no surprise that the vast majority of these homesteads have become feral denizens of the unforgiving desert. A few survive today and can be had for $30,000 or $40,000 complete with water, electric and A/C.

If there is a community hub for this vast aridness it is Wonder Valley where there’s a bar and restaurant that looked like it could actually function though there’s no guarantee of that. 

Of homesteading in general the intrepid John Wesley Powell proffered that it’s a pretty good idea when there’s sufficient water and land to support a family unit but that west of say the longitude of central Texas you're selling folks some pie in the sky and world of hurt.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

First Ewe. Last shepherd.

I walked for two days with Victor Hernandez as he trailed his sheep from their forage across US 285 from San Antonio Mountain in northern New Mexico to their late winter pasture in Mogote, Colorado just east of Antonito. Make that two epically muddy slogs through ankle deep sludge that left my shins aching for a week. Victor looks like he’s sauntering but I could barely keep up.

While Victor did the trailing it was the Australian Sheep Dogs, Daddy and Puppy, that did the real herding, nipping at the occasional tail to keep the flock moving.

Starting out on a diagonal course to US 285

Victor and the flock with the north flank of San Antonio Mountain in the background

Entering the pasture in Mogote. Hay and water at the ready.

I learned that Victor had been bivouacked with los borregos at San Antonio since September and had earlier grazed the sheep in the high mountains of the Cruces Basin.

The sheep, all descendants of single ewe from the 1920s, will be sheared on February 20 or 21 depending on the availability of the shearers. According to patron Andrew Abeyta there will be nicks and cuts aplenty, some of which can have deadly consequences. I will be there for the assembly line but hope to miss any mortal wounds.

Lambing will occur in March and in September the critters will be sold to the buyer in Center, Colorado at the sweet little price of $2.00 a pound give or take. Last year the Abeytas sold 400 at about 100 pounds per. Andrew was prompted to say, “I wish I had more at those prices.” Still there are no guarantees in the up and down market for baby sheep.

Did you know that most ewes birth twins or that the sheep eat snow to get their fluids?

Sunday, February 01, 2015

On the road to Wind Mountain

The first right that accesses the Taos Plateau north of US 64 on US 285 is marked Wind Mountain. TP 178 if memory serves. Barely a mile in I spied a ramshackle corral in six inches of new snow. Corrals, as you know by now, draw me like Manchego cheese to Marcona almonds. And as a bonus beyond the corral sat this well worn abode. That sky didn't hurt either.

Corral close up.

Sheepherding adventures to grace these pages shortly.