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Howdy, <<First Name>>

Who's ready for autumn? Having grown up in South Florida, I'm still enamored with having noticeably distinct seasons, even decades after having left the Sunshine State. If you all aren't already enjoying some cooler weather and the crisp promise of winter yet like we are, hopefully you will be soon.

In our world, we're really beginning to understand the rhythm of the seasons in our intriguing new stomping grounds. There's so much to learn and explore. And there's a variety of ways to go about it. It's quite wonderful. The highlight of September was getting to know the Gila River watershed quite a bit better.

Celebrating the Gila

September marked the 18th Annual Gila River Festival which, as you probably puzzled out, is a celebration of the Gila River and its watershed. It's four days of presentations, performances, and field trips that draw visitors from all over to learn more about the natural and cultural importance of the Gila. This year we were able to attend hydrology and plant ecology field trips that gave us a fast-forward pass towards understanding the landscape here. I was giddy to have the chance to play in the field with experts who freely share their love and knowledge.

Why, yes. Yes, I did go full nature nerd, thanks for asking.

While I'm no longer a practicing geologist, it will always be my first love, particularly fluvial geomorphology. Stomping around the Gila over that weekend, we were able to witness the effects of August's historic flood event, including dramatic shifts in the river channel which is basically a geomorphologist's dream. A more sobering dramatic experience was seeing the turbid east fork merge with the west fork. Even though most of this year's Black Fire spread over the east side of the Black Range, the area that crested over the west side was enough to cloud the east fork with ash and charcoal.

The unexpected cherry on top of our festival goings was butterfly tagging. It was a first for both J and me. Standing on a sand bar in the middle of the Gila River, learning about the life cycle of Monarchs? I'll take more of that please.

Road trip!

Aside from a couple of local camping trips back in February of this year, we haven't been away from the house since the whole haul-ass-back-to-nevada-to-clear-out-the-storage-units-ordeals-from-hell of July and August of last year.

This diversion from Silver City life was courtesy of vending at Lumber Jack Day in Cloudcroft, a little town nestled high in the Sacramento Mountains east of White Sands. We approached this show as an excuse to have a change of scenery and, dare I say, something resembling a mini-vacation even though there was a lot of work involved.

You know what they say about best-laid plans. We thought we'd added enough of a time buffer to be leisurely and explore a bit but it didn't quite work out as hoped. The show itself was way more demanding than we anticipated across the board and combined with the 3,000-foot elevation change that kicked our out-of-shape butts, we were pretty wiped out.

Overall though, the break from the renovation shit show did us good and we were able to mentally reset a bit. Plus, Toby did great. Our arthritic old boy has to be carried in and out of the truck as well as up stairs these days but seeing him perky and excited to be traveling again felt good.

Throttle therapy

Yes, that's a gratuitous GS shot, just below. The little town of Hillsboro lies at the end of our Emory Pass route and it's where we stop for lunch to refuel our stomachs for the ride home. And how could I not admire my Adventure Beast resting in front of one of the cute little houses there? I'm quite fond of my bike, as you've probably noticed.

We've also had some good runs in the sidecar. It's just a fun little machine in a small town where the speed limit isn't over 35 miles an hour. Betty is a perfect fit for Silver City and people love seeing Toby scoot around town in her.

Home sweet home

On the home front, we have a doe friend who paid us a lengthy visit last month. Since I typically have the camera and long lens on hand at happy hour to help with identifying birds, I was able to get a pretty funny shot of her enjoying the back yard. Isn't she a cutie?

As for our meadow, it has proven to be a marvelous habitat and has kept very unpleasant weeds at bay. Case in point—we haven't had to pick goatheads out of Toby's paws (or our own feet for that matter) at all this year. Plus it has mitigated the heavy soil erosion we experienced last year so we've managed to keep our yard from running down the street into the storm sewer.

As we get to know our property, we're learning what to encourage, discourage, and how to manage it. Our pals from the Gila Native Plant Society even came by to help us ID what we have and give us more tips and advice on how to create what we want in the long run. The yard overhaul is a long play though that has to take a backseat to getting the house livable. But we did pick up a few new tall grasses at the local native plant sale that will help us create some tiers, layers, and interest as an interim step towards our end goal. Now that we know exactly what we're starting with, we can keep learning and be ready to turn the yard into something special when the time comes. In the meantime, the grasses are beautiful, intricate, and fascinating—and I adore them.

Speaking of making the house livable, we made some headway on the fascia prep in the gap between monsoon season and whatever the surge of rain that we're getting now is called. Again with those best-laid plans! So we'll have to wait until things dry out again to continue sanding, priming, and painting. We did finally brave removing a bit of soffit from a particularly bad section by the chimney to see what kind of repairs we'll have to undertake. There's some awkward work to be done but it's really not as bad as we were preparing ourselves for. But get a load of the before and after shots. It's a reminder we've already come a long way.

Monthly image giveaway

This is my latest creation—an oil conversion of a shot I took at the Santa Rita copper mine just east of us. The exposed layers are a remarkable palette of geologic wonder that I felt compelled to play with.

Enjoy! Feel free to click and save for your personal use. Prints are available in the new store. Use the discount code STRATA through October 31st for 20% off your order of any art in the store. As with all of my pieces, if you're unsure what to order, give me a shout. I'm happy to help you find the perfect match of art and medium for your décor.

Thanks for following along! Cheers, friends!

PS: If you know someone else who might like what I'm doing, feel free to click this link to forward the newsletter to a friend.

That's all for now, friends. Stay well and keep moving forward.

—Val

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