Climate Change in the Desert
We invested in the high desert just about a year ago. Happy Anniversary, Desert Dairy! The property is gradually turning the corner from complete wreck to decency. On arrival we no longer confront lists of screaming problems--we can start to think about making art, about enjoying nature. Almost.
When I look back on the photos from a year ago, the ground is bare. Now it's covered with wild grasses, the last of the wildflowers, and brambles. There are lots of critters, it's a whole different place. I bought a desert willow (tried to graft a few, but they kept dying), and an ocotillo (have wanted one since I was a kid!). Digging the holes to plant them, caterpillars kept falling in. They are White Lined Sphinxes, the fairies of the moth world. There's going to be a swarm of them. Our neighbor trimmed our poor butchered tamarisks so they actually look like trees again. Now I can look out from the house into the distance through the branches, and it feels like floating, yellow daisies glowing in the distance.
The scary thing is locals starting to talk about fire danger, because usually there's nothing to burn here. I wonder if this year is a fluke, all the rain. Early in the 20th century there was a decade of wet weather, prompting desert homestead settlement from eastern farmers who were fooled. Some crazy family built our dairy, complete with barn, basement, outhouse and cool houses. And then the dream was devastated with the return of desert weather, leaving failed farms and abandoned shacks across the Morongo Basin.
Anna does most of the writing. Ted does most of the photos. But sometimes we switch. We are repairing a distressed property in 29 Palms, California, and eventually hope to run an artist residency there.