Greener Pastures in the Scorching Southwest

20080320w_santafe01.jpgWe’ve seen many places in the U.S. where human habitats are completely at odds with the environment. In places like Florida, builders continue battling nature, despite all of the evidence that this is a bad idea. Living there is a constant struggle between the land, the animals, and the humans, and as a result, few things about the place feel natural. There is complete and total disharmony with the environment.

But here in the harsh lands of New Mexico, humans seem to do a better job of working with their surroundings. From the ancient style of adobe buildings that naturally insulate homes, to suburbanites doing xeriscape conversions, people seem to be more willing to work with nature.

New Mexico: Greener Living in an Inhospitable Place


The architecture in New Mexico is stunning, but not because of ornate touches like those found on old Victorians. The blocky style of Southwest architecture can seem boring to someone who knows nothing about the subject, like me. To my untrained eye, it’s not the buildings’ construction that I find beautiful, but the way in which they fit into the scenery, seemingly making less of a human impact on the environment.

As global warming begins affecting New Mexico‘s harsh climate, sustainability and living in harmony with the land seems to be on more people’s minds.

Could I live here? No way. The desert air is magnificent, but the lack of humidity is making my skin look like it belongs to an old Indian woman. The winds blows constantly from all directions, stirring up dust everywhere. After just a week, a fine layer of grit is becoming permanently embedded on everything in our rig.

Madrid, New Mexico: Colorful People and Technicolor Water

20080319w_madrid13.jpgWe did visit one town that upon first glance, seemed like it could make our short list. Situated just south of Santa Fe among low rolling mountains and scrubby forests, the town of Madrid appeared to be a great hippie, artsy place to lay down roots. As a renovated mining town, it’s cute, artsy, and seems to have a decent tourism base. Madrid’s land and homes are cheaper than Santa Fe.

But then I did some investigating. I spoke with one local and and asked, “What’s the deal with this town? Why is it cheaper than Santa Fe?” The main reason? The water. Or rather, the lack of it. Years ago when MAD-rid was a mining town, water was brought in by train. Today, even if a resident can drill their own well, the water is completely undrinkable from mining’s after effects. “Oh yeah, people here turn on the tap and see all sorts of colors coming out,” my local informant said, “so everyone has to truck their water in.”

20080319w_madrid16.jpgIt’s too bad that Madrid, like Florida, just seems like it isn’t meant to be lived in. Holding steady in my conviction that I want to live lighter on the earth, I left Madrid with a heavy sigh, and immediately nixed it off our short list of possible towns to move to. Trucking in water just doesn’t seem to be all that sustainable.

10 thoughts on “Greener Pastures in the Scorching Southwest”

  1. The desert here is amazing, I really do love it, and wish it was more hospitable for my tastes. I feel at home here, to a point.

    That’s a funny story about cleaning your gear, Kim! Yeah, pretty futile in these parts.

  2. Funny about the allergies. Since moving down here (south-central Texas), my husband has had horrible allergies. He never had them all the years we were in NM. I do agree about the dirt everywhere. I can’t believe how little I have to dust living down here as compared to NM. Although different areas had different amounts of dust (lived several places in the state).

    As for the dry skin, I never really thought much about it until moving down here a few years ago. My skin doesn’t need a layer of lotion on it everyday, I never get split ends, and I don’t even need a separate conditioner for my hair.

    I understand your not wanting to settle in the desert. The water situation is worrisome. I really want to move back someday though. I love NM and miss it more than I ever thought I would.

  3. Jim,
    I thought the desert was supposed to be good for allergies? I guess it depends on your allergy type, dust vs. pollen etc.

    Keep looking for an allergy free place, I already need the sinus transplant 😉

  4. I had to laugh at your statement about the dust AND allergies. We can relate! Ever since we hit this area, we’ve had sinus problems, dust in our truck, dust in our trailer, dust in our eyes, dust in our teeth……….I could go on. We love this area also but don’t think we could live here because of the dust and the winds.

    We spent most of Sunday emptying the truck and totally cleaning out the back. We store all of our camping and boating equipment there. This included washing or wiping down everything and putting things bac into new, clean containers. Less than an hour after we were done – a huge wind blew dust and dirt right back on everything we had cleaned. Sigh….

  5. Developers are always at war with the land in Floriduh because that land was never meant to be developed. It’s mostly a swamp. that’s why there are drainage canals and runoff ponds everywhere.

    As for New Mexico? I might be able to live here if we could learn some way to make water, and I could get a sinus transplant. The wind and dry desert air are murder on my allergies

  6. Cool on the Pinot G call as we’ve got our hot tub filled with it here in Newport, smells kind of weird hot wine so we turned off the heat and made some of our own and all is well.

    Red Wine shouldn’t stain your teeth but cheap French government manufactured cigarets should stain not only your teeth but your nose and forehead as well.

    All we are saying is give red wine a chance Rene, give Gorgonzola cheese a chance as well though it’s a sweet pairing with certain white wines.

    Cheese and wine are actually not an easy mix, you’ll need to take delicate steps in this area. Too sharp a cheese and too weak a wine and you’ll have hell to pay in your jowels with all of those conflicting acids. Life is complicated, nes pas?


  7. German Shepherd that he is, Jerry would rather bathe in Jaeger, or at least a tub of Heinicken.

    As for me, red wine stains my teeth. Now a good Pinot Grigio, on the other hand, is something I could swim in.

  8. You might want to consider going the way of southern Europeans like in the South of France, most don’t even remember the last time they drank water and besides, the local rouge does much for the bloodstream and constituent entrails/organs. According to local medical lore, over 25% of those living in Aix En Provence have successfully swapped the water in their bloodstream for, well, wine and as a result life expectancies have tripled.

    There’s the story of the 168-year-old pilates instructor in Aix, and the 220 year old boxer (claims he once mistakenly urinated on Napaleon’s horse after a charge on an Italian village) who recently retired from professional engagements because of bunyans. So be it I suppose.

    Anyway, my point is your looking at the well as half empty if not all empty and if Santa Fe or even New Mexico for that matter has a Trader Joe’s then a solid variety of wines will be available that are less in cost gallon per gallon than water. You could shower and do your laundry in a young Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Francs are excellent for basic cooking and thirst quenching, even the Jerry can get in on the action – ever hear a Shepherd bark La Marseillaise? It’s awesome and can be very emotional.

    Over time you can get your rig to burn Languedoc varietals, man, I can go on forever about how we need to loosen up in this country by letting go and lettin’ the Merlot flow!

    Hmmmmm, soothing and smoothing, yeah baby, C’est bon you bon vivant, Eric


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