Friday, 11 January 2008

East to the Rio Grande

After the 'excitement' of the Continental Divide , there was not much on the route east to Las Cruces which Mark followed yesterday, which really caught my geographical eye.... until I zoomed in closer. The first settlement of any significant size on yesterday's route was Deming, which, despite its size (14,500 pop) is apparently devoid of bike shops!

Originally founded as an agricultural community in 1881, Deming today has a population of around 14,500. Half a world away is Forfar, a former agricultural market town and county town of Angus in Scotland. It also has a population of around 14500 but it dates from the 12th century. The contrast in street patterns between the two settlements couldn't be more striking ....

Here, Deming, a settlement which has enjoyed the luxury of planning since its foundation - streets in a rigid grid iron pattern like many other similar settlements in this part of the USA.

..and for contrast, the centre of Forfar which has grown outwards from its Medieval core over 900 years with little help from the planners except towards the outskirts. But I digress....

According to Wikipedia 'farming became a mainstay of the Deming economy when the centrifugal pump and rural electrification became realities in the 1940s . Much of the flat land around Deming is highly fertile, with abundant ground water at shallow depth hence the significance of pumping for irrigation. The growing season is long and sunny. Staple crops such and cotton, sorgam, and alfalfa have been partly replaced by wine grapes and pecan orchards since the 1970s. Ranching is also fairly extensive around Deming'. However, to imagine that Deming is simply an agricultural community would be a great understatement. According to the municipal website, it is an 'Enterprise Community', a fact which its mayor is very much at pains to point out in the promotional video which you can link to from here.

Wikipedia also notes that Deming is in the Chihuahuan Desert - a desert which straddles the US/Mexican border. In this NASA image, the boundary of the Chihuahua desert ecoregion as defined by WWF is shown. The Chihuahuan Desert is higher in altitude than the Sonoran desert to the west, mostly varying from 600 m to 1,675 m (1,970-5,500 feet) in altitude. As a result, it tends to have a slightly milder climate in the summer (though usually daytime June temperatures are in the range of 35 to 40 °C, or 95 to 104 °F). Winter weather varies from relatively mild to quite cold depending on altitude and the ferocity of northerly winds. Rainfall is somewhat more abundant than most of the Sonoran desert. However it is still less than 10 inches (254 mm) per year, with much of the rain falling during the late summer. Snowfall is scant except at the higher elevations.

To the east of Deming the Interstate 10 continues through the desert until it reaches the valley of the Rio Grande and again, as we have seen countless times on Mark's journeying through deserts, the availability of irrigation water transforms the desert, here into a lush green ribbon ......... which supports intensive farming and the settlement of Las Cruces. Approaching the valley , Mark would have enjoyed glorious views of las Cruces against the backdrop of the Organ Mountains. The valley of the Rio Grande at las Cruces is known as the Mesilla Valley and is particularly noted for the production of pecans. Indeed, the largest pecan orchard in the world, a part of which is shown here, is located just south west of Las Cruces. The last time we saw trees arrayed like that was in Malaysia and they were oil palms! However, just in case you are curious (as i was) to know what pecans look like from the ground, here is a Flickr image of pecan trees near Las Cruces And finally.... if Las Cruces is the global centre of pecan production, can you remember where the pistachio centre of the world is? (Mark has been there too!)


john said...

Dear Mrs V,
A big thank you to you for all the time and effort you are putting into this. I read each entry with interest and enjoyment.

Mrs V said...

You are most welcome, John. It has been a huge priviledge to 'accompany' Mark on his journey and if, in the process, I have managed to persuade my readers that geography is an engaging and hugely diverse subject, that is a bonus!

GeoBlogs said...

The pistachio producing centre of the world is Iran... Do I get a bag as a prize > ;)