They say there are four seasons in the San Luis Valley: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter and Road Construction. I remember a time when Judy would close Splashland for a couple of hours every afternoon in July. It was our “monsoon season.” Now, we can have blizzards any time between September and June with flurries on July 4th. If it rains every day in August, you can almost count on an early freeze to ensure that you have an abundance of green tomatoes.
My son John was bemoaning the forthcoming fall without harvest from his “Salsa Garden,” the little gardening that has ever been of interest to him. He usually has several varieties of tomatoes, some onions, a sprig or two of garlic and lots of green chile. The chile never quite approximates that from Hatch, or even the newer Pueblo offerings, but it’s as close as he’s likely to get in Massachusetts. Just after spring, John, Joy and Jordan the Gypsy bought their very first new-old house. Between putting up a fence for the dog and grooming a place for the above-ground pool, John missed planting season altogether. Joy was just thrilled to coax a few flowers up from winter beds: she does her gardening the easy way, straight from the produce section at the grocery store.
Daughter Chris finally gave up in despair after the third year of voles, moles or other small, burrowing critters ate the roots right out from under everything edible in her garden. It’s a lot like watching the Elmer Fudd-Bugs Bunny cartoons where Elmer’s carrots simply pop back under the ground as fast as he can encourage them to grow. You’d think that, with the assorted traps and drownings and the huge horned owl that hunts through our field, these little varmints would become extinct in one summer, but no, they’ve thrived. Altogether, it’s easier (and a lot more fun) to go to the Farmers’ Market for fresh produce and we buy our green chile from Atencio’s or, in a pinch, from WalMart. They’ll roast it better and a lot faster than you can do it yourself.
We truly do live in the “land of milk and honey” here: a few potatoes, a little butter, some milk, green chile and maybe a little onion and you’ve fixed a meal fit for a king. Pintos, potatoes, beef or pork and green chile, and you can invite the whole royal family to dinner. And you know it had to be someone from the San Luis Valley who “invented” the baked potato dinner. Stop by the Potato Administration office in front of Safeway in Monte Vista to pick up a free potato recipe book. Ever tried potato brownies?
All things considered, it’s a good thing my former mother-in-law sold “the family farm” in Hooper. For all that John loved going out on the tractor with his granddad, John Lloyd Sr. (who was also superintendent of schools), he is not “farmer material.” He still thinks he’s Spiderman. Could be different: one of my grandson Zan’s little friends in about third grade always wanted to be Wonder Woman when the neighborhood boys were playing “super heroes.” They tried to explain to Phillip (not Phil, always “Phillip”) that he should pick one of the Power Rangers, or Superman, or Batman. No, Phillip wanted to be Wonder Woman. The boys finally gave up trying to convince Phillip otherwise, and they went on to play “super heroes” with Wonder Woman most of the summer. Phillip is an attorney; wouldn’t you just know it! Anyone who can talk five or six other little boys into playing with Wonder Woman will probably become a Justice of the Supreme Court.