In Arizona, when Monday afternoons start to drag we break out the rattlesnakes.

Snake Charmer

Yeah, that was not a euphemism. Security caught three of these guys in the pecan orchards yesterday and, while I object to the unprovoked killing of a wild critter, holding it after the fact was definitely a tell-your-friends experience. (Rattlesnakes have a healthy population in this area and are highly venomous, to the point that many local dogs get “snake-trained.” I understand why we would curtail their proliferation in the orchards.) Even though the snake was dead, its body continued to move. I had never held a snake before yesterday afternoon, so I did not adequately prepare myself for the sensation of pure muscle writhing in my hands. Many people imagine snakes as slimy, creepy, and partially responsible for Man’s ejection from the Garden of Eden (but that’s another story). In fact, its scales felt smooth and dry under my fingers. General consensus: pretty cool. I wish we had fire roasted the rattlesnake meat, since it’s guaranteed to be antibiotic-free and did not spend the last months of its life terrified and tortured in a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). Then again, I will probably have the opportunity to taste snake meat before I leave.

It may sound like I’ve spent the last 6 weeks waiting for a serpentine distraction to post and boast about, but I’ve actually amassed quite a collection of experiences since moving to the pecan farm:

I have driven more than in my entire life before my arrival in Arizona. The multitude of things I do not know about driving, right-of-way, washer fluid, how to fill a tank with gas, how to open a car hood, what is a suspension, how to go through Border Patrol, Mercury Grand Marquis roadside assistance, rear windshield wipers, what is cruise control…let’s just say I’m learning a lot about my car.

I went to the Biosphere2 exhibit, where my infatuation with the project stupefied my poor companion. To be fair, his electric blue sports car and neon green man-tank left me equally lacking conversation starters. (And to be biased: the Biosphere2 was super cool. The series of domes was built in the 1980s as part of a space colonization program (!!!) and operated for 9 years during the 1990s by Columbia University. The project created a self-sufficient mini-Earth, complete with a rainforest, desert, ocean, swampland, grassland, and farm, and sealed 8 scientists inside for 2 years to see how they would survive. Why has Bravo not created a reality show on this premise?)

I have – you knew it was coming – gone hiking. Tucson, it turns out, is surrounded by mountain ranges: we have the Catalinas, the Santa Ritas, the Rincon, the Tortolitas, and the very creatively named Tucson Mountains. Who knew? (Probably the people who also knew Arizona is not next to Georgia; i.e.: not me.) More than any other source of homesickness, I blame my addiction to xanthophylls, carotenoids, and anthocyanins for sending me fleeing into the Catalina Mountains. Last time I got a slightly more realistic dose of home than I expected: temperatures dropped from the 80s to the low 40s, the skies opened up, and hail pelted my small group as we scurried down the slope.

As an ongoing personal project, I am oiling the hinges on my rusty Spanish skills. Now I can tell the mechanic “I’m embarrassed” (“estoy avergonzada”) after complaining that my windshield wipers don’t work, only to find out that I didn’t hold the button down long enough. I have learned not to say “estoy embarazada” (“I’m pregnant!”).

I’ll post some accompanying photos from my hikes and the neighborhood in the next few days – once my camera charger arrives from New York, where I left it behind in a packing tizzy.

One last thing: I highly encourage any readers to click on the links in this article. I know I can be a bore about food production issues, but CAFOs and antibiotic use in animals are two huge issues that blur the lines between the food industry and  the American health care system.


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