Let’s see: my backyard’s garden area has now been cleaned up, tilled, and demarcated; I’ve got a vermiculture bin and a compost heap going in hopes of helping the soil grow ever healthier as time passes. The weather has been unseasonably warm as I’ve worked outdoors these last couple of weeks, but the ground still gets frosty at night, so it’ll be at least another month before I plant anything.
Which is great, because I’ve still got so much to learn about how to care for these future crops.
Especially given that I’m making my first foray into “farming” here in the arid Southwest. From the coarse plains east of Albuquerque, to the forested mountain slopes up around Taos, across scrubby desert to the western mesas of Acoma and the Hopi, the region’s topography is incredibly diverse. But in the eyes of an outsider like me—someone who grew up in a comparatively lush northern climate, and who associates agriculture with endless, dense green fields soaking up several rains a week—it all shares at least one trait: it all strikes me as pretty inhospitable to cultivating plant life.
That perception only reveals my ignorance as an outsider. Over the course of a history going back thousands of years, the people of this place have developed a deep understanding of the vibrant relationships between sandy soils, snowmelt, prevailing winds, mesa-top pools, runoff in the rainy season, riverbeds’ ebbs and flows, and the many different seeds that can thrive when cultivated in these conditions.
That is to say, thanks to the region’s rich agricultural tradition, I’ll be able to draw on centuries of well-established knowledge and techniques as I learn how to tend my garden. I’m just starting to scratch the surface of all this historical wisdom, but I’m excited to delve deeper in the months ahead.