Sunday, March 2, 2008

A rancher-woman's work is never done

I saddled up Hank yesterday and gave him a job to do - help me find patches of a particularly evil cactus variety that I had decided to eradicate from the ranch. From high atop his back, the cacti would be easy to spot, and I would return later with a shovel and the Ranger to start making a dent in this chore.

On (yes, Virginia, there is a website for everything), I learned that this stuff is called Grusonia clavata, also known more appropriately as Dagger Cholla (that’s choy-yuh, not chole-la for the of the first lessons I learned when I moved to New Mexico was to never say any word I’d never seen before until I heard a native say it...and yes, this was learned the hard way...I lived off Calle Nortena in Bernalillo county). I also learned that this species had an encounterability rating of “rare.” Clearly, the authors of had never been to the 7MSN.

Now why would a reasonably sane person attempt to eradicate cacti from the desert? Heaven forbid one of my horse's or burro's velvety muzzles should accidentally bump into one, and we all know the grass is always greener at the base of the cacti, so the likelihood of said accident is extremely high, particularly when one of the muzzles in question belongs to I-never-met-anything-I-didn’t-want-to-investigate-further Lyle. In addition, one less patch of cacti is one less painful place I might get dumped when Hank or Lyle get western on me.

So today, when it was too windy to enjoy riding, I started to dig up Dagger Cholla. Mercifully, it’s isolated to a few spots on the ranch, unlike last year’s locoweed (a subject for another time). Of course the boys had to try to help me - Lyle provides all the entertainment one could possibly need to take one’s mind off the tedium of dig-pick-toss, repeat.

Everybody comes out to investigate...with Lyle leading the way, of course

Hmm...maybe this handle is edible.

Hmm...maybe there's a carrot in one of these pockets.


  1. Hi- Grusonia clavata (aka Corynopuntia clavata) isn't rare, exactly, just a New Mexico endemic.

    There are indeed folks who would love to have a cutting or two or an entire clump of the plant. I realize it's not the most attractive of cacti, but cactus people sometimes are like the mother who loves the son only a mother could love. You could post to the forum and see who wants some G. clavata and would pay shipping. I bet you'd get more than a few takers.

    Where's your ranch? I lived in Santa Fe NM for 24 years.

    Peter B.
    Tempe AZ

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Peter. My ranch is located in the far northeast corner of Socorro county, about 22 miles southwest of Mountainair. If somebody were desperate for a clump of this cactus, I'd try to figure out how to make it happen. But since I only get out to the post office about once a month, I just can't see myself getting into the cactus-shipping business. If you knew somebody who wanted to pick the rest of it and take it on home, well now we're talking!

  3. It's beautiful country out there, between Mountainair and Socorro. Up in Belen is one of the world's largest cactus and succulent nurseries, Mesa Garden.You're surrounded by cactus huggers. :-)

    Hope you enjoy spring in NM,