a helpful guide to joshua tree summers

my brother-in-law wrote a post about coping with heat in this place last year. his description of what the temperature ranges feel like inspired me to write this little post. if i was better with graphics, i’d make a cute thermometer noting what to expect right on there to entertain you, but for now you’ll just have to imagine it.

daytime high temps:

70-79F (21-26C)… aka winter – sunbathe, garden, hike, call canadian relatives to gloat

80-89F (26-31C) you get too hot in the direct sun, so do your yard work before 10am or after 5pm. do inside stuff midday or take a nice siesta in the hammock. call vancouver relatives to gloat.

90-99F (31-37C) keep the swamp cooler turned on, and keep watermelon and whiskey sours available. do all your cooking in the solar oven or grill (do not turn on oven). siesta is a must so you can get up early to do your work. if you want to be outside in the middle of the day, soak a long sleeve shirt and wear it until it dries, the soak it again. spend evenings outdoors playing catch with the toddler and marveling at the sunset in the comfortably warm breeze.

100-105F (38-40C) opening the door is like walking in to a sauna, so don’t do it. make sure you have some kind of pool you can submerge yourself and your child in several times in the day (in the shade!). observe that the lizards and road runners are visibly panting. count the hours until sunset. when the sun finally goes down, go out to water the trees.

105-110F (41-43C) eyeball-scorching wall of heat. feel how hot the windows are. do not go outside except to scuttle over to the in-law’s air-conditioned living room. leave the swamp cooler on 24 hours a day. do not call canadian relatives but do secretly watch youtube videos of the aquabus and have heat induced, mirage-like visions of laying in a cool dark cave with moss and the sound of a creek.

111-115F (44-46C) (today). brain is cooked. ask yourself why you live here. plan escape to the beach or north. tell yourself, “this too shall pass.” let the kid watch tv. eat watermelon, cucumbers, and lemonade. do not cook. do not clean. do not do work of any kind. do NOT call canadian relatives.

summer in the desert

I grew up in a city that was once a rain forest. my first memory is of standing outside in my muddy buddy (a one-piece rainproof jumpsuit). mine was red and had matching boots and rain hat. i was two or three. i’ve always loved rain and loved the rainy city that was my home. i appreciated all the seasons. even the long, dark, winter.

when we moved to joshua tree i was concerned about how i would manage during the long, excessively hot, summers. i remember crying on damian’s shoulder the first summer, before we had our swap cooler hooked up and the temperature was already over 100 (38c) in may. i told him, “i just want a cool wet cave! <sniff> why are we living in this place?)

but i’m learning that we humans are highly adaptable beings. i’m finding myself this summer just loving my home in the desert. i love wearing thin cotton dresses, i love sipping green juice. i love hunting tomato worms and feeding them to the chickens. i love napping during the hottest part of the day and starting work fresh in the afternoon with a glass of ice tea. i love the perky sunflowers taking over the garden. i love cooking in the solar oven. i love eating giant salads for lunch. i love harvesting cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and beets every day. i love doing yoga in a room as hot as any bikram studio. i love how quiet the roads are, and how unhurried everyone seems. i love that naked is the preferred outfit for all the little kids i know.

my new-found delight with desert summers may have something to do with the fact that i am off school until august and find myself with the luxury of free time, but that’s irrelevant.

the absolute best thing about joshua tree summers are the nights. there is nothing better than hanging out under the stars with friends after a good show at pappy and harriet’s. you can sip a margarita while seeing shooting stars as a warm breeze caresses your exposed skin. we are lucky folks, us summer desert dwellers.

musicians in joshua tree

a trailer for a new documentary about musicians and joshua tree. i can’t really tell by the trailer, but it could be really good. looks like it’s been officially selected for a bunch of festivals. more info at: http://www.nowherenowthemovie.com/

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObEy6jZ-S80] do i count as famous if i have sold all these people snacks at the health food store?


the last few days have been blustery and cool(er). i cannot tell you how excited i am about this change. i’ve been dreaming of rainy days with pots of tea and stew bubbling cozily in a house that smells like cinnamon and fresh bread. i dream of slippers and down comforters, pumpkin pie and scones. i love fall! living in the desert, i sometimes feel like the seasons are just a story i tell myself. take christmas for example. is it really christmas with sun blazing through the windows and you look out to see bunnies hopping around on dry brown sand? i guess that’s an obnoxious thing to say. i’m sorry, it’s just that i grew up associating december with short gray days and long cold nights. where i grew up fall meant sweaters and vibrant red leaves, cold rain and lots of apples. i miss it.

i may not get my wish of a full day of rain, but that doesn’t mean i can’t make pumpkin pie and scones! yesterday i made a phenomenal (if i do say so myself) “pumpkin” pie and today i’m making a hearty bean stew. tomorrow i’m planning to try a corn-syrup free pecan pie.

the pumpkin pie i made with kabocha squash, coconut milk and maple syrup. unconventional, perhaps, but i’m telling you, it was the best! just cut the squash in half and bake it at 350 until soft (about 45 min), blend 2 cups worth with 1 cup coconut milk (or heavy cream), 3/4 cups maple syrup, 3 eggs and the usual pumpkin pie spices. blind bake a crust, fill it and then bake at 325 until set.

the pecan pie will be sweetened with brown rice syrup and agave. i have high hopes.

vancouver vs. joshua tree

i just got back from a trip to vancouver. it was a great trip, i spent 10 days steeping in the city and sucking up as much connection as i possibly could with my dear ones.
it’s an interesting thing that i experience traveling between joshua tree and vancouver; when i’m on my way to vancouver, i feel like i’m coming home. when i arrive, everything is familliar and comforting. the sound of cars driving on wet streets lets me breathe a little deeper. the smell of miso and the sound of people speaking other languages feeds me in some deep way.

packing up and heading back to joshua tree, again i have the sense that i am coming home. the sight of the jaggy mountains and a meal at santanas gets me centered, the embrace of my darling, my beautiful garden… i love it here. i love it a lot, and yet, my heart aches for vancouver. it’s hard to be 1800 miles away from all those people that i love so much. i guess that’s just the way it goes when you decide to love people…

so i’ve compiled a short list (in random order) about both places:

10 things i love about joshua tree:

1 seeing shooting stars on my bike ride home from work
2 waking up to my bedroom flooded with sunlight every morning
3 harvesting tomatoes and peppers from my garden at the end of november
4 the quiet
5 knowing 75% of the people i see ‘downtown’
6 my family
7 cheap rent
8 the high percentage of environmentalists and nature-lovers here
9 how easy it is to live simply
10 my little house

10 things i love about vancouver:

1 being able to get anywhere in the city easily and quickly on public transportation
2 the abundance of every kind of food and ingredient a girl could ever want
3 the diversity. so many beautiful people living so many kinds of lives
4 so much to get into -art, food, fashion, media, theatre, protests, clubs, discussions, networks…
5 seasons. a time for staying indoors baking bread and drinking tea.
6 great resources to study anything from swahili to sushi to capoara
7 the ocean
8 walking lots
9 my family
10 health care

lastly, a moment of purely self-indulgent sentimentality: isaac, alicia, mum, oma, richard, edie, dad, mattias, anne, eden, max, jonathan, reanna, jessie – i love you and miss you! thanks for sharing some time (and everything else) with me. come visit. please. it’s nice and sunny….