The story of our land - Cranehaven Bed & Breakfast
This is the story of how Cranehaven Bed & Breakfast came to be: When Rick and I first moved here, 25 years ago, there was only one standing tree (an old pear tree with more dead than living branches) and 32 acres of tall, thorn-covered weeds. There was no well, no ancient water rights or working canals to irrigate the land. However, New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment for a reason.
As we looked up, the sky seemed to go on forever. There were no high-rise buildings to block the unending expanse of blue. There were (and still are) glorious mountain ranges all around us - the mysterious Ladrones, Lemitar and the Magdalena Mountain ranges to the west, and the Los Pinos and Sierra Larga Mountain ranges to the east. Being situated as we were in the Rio Grand River Valley, we were sitting low between these massive geological features. This position made for incredible views of the meteorological sights all around us. Occasionally, we would witness distant thunderstorms with brilliant flashes of lightening and booming claps of thunder in the nearby mountains. The aftermath of these meteorological productions brought forth brilliant rainbows, single and double, and sometimes even triple arcs of color filling the newly washed skies after a rain. The mountains to the east daily brought us sunrises of breath-taking beauty and stunning colors that, moment by moment, increasingly illuminated the predawn darkness with radiant rays of light and warmth. The setting sun over the mountains to the west gave us dazzling evening spectacles of lavender and purple mountain tops illuminated against a backdrop of blazing skies painted in magentas, reds, golds, and orange hues of such vivid intensity as to be beyond description. Not to be outdone, the monthly arrival of the full moon completely entranced us. This magnificent sight of a giant luminous, silver sphere gradually revealing itself like a celestial dancer in the night sky, left us in absolute awe. As the moon continued to rise above the dark, silhouetted mountain tops, it claimed its rightful place in the night skies which were filled with seemingly endless numbers of radiant points of starlight. No matter what time of day or night we looked up, the sky itself became a living presence to us of unimaginable variety and beauty.
And then, we discovered the birds. Cranehaven is located on a major migratory flyway that hosts hundreds of thousands of winged creatures in their seasonal journeys in the late fall and early spring. As I witnessed the amazing sight flying above me, of flocks of snow geese, ducks, ibis, blue heron, ravens, crows, even sea gulls, white egrets and the absolutely magnificent, giant sandhill cranes. I also saw them occasionally landing in nearby fields to search for insects and roots to fuel their long flights. This inspired me to hatch a plan of my own to invite these awesome birds to also visit our property.
I learned that a preferred food source for the cranes is corn. Not having irrigated land, and not being farmers, meant I could not grow acres of corn to attract them. But, I could provide some dried corn, some seed blocks and sources of drinking water for these cold-weather visitors. So, I mowed down acres of weeds, filled some plastic tubs with water and bought a bag of dried corn and a couple of wild-bird seed blocks. I went outside before dawn and tossed handfulls of the grain onto our open ground. I placed the seed blocks around our acreage. And then, I waited.
Over the next several weeks, I observed these intelligent birds flying low over our property, taking notice of the new features that had appeared on our land. Soon thereafter, three very large cranes landed and cautiously investigated the seed blocks. Soon, they foraged for grains of dried corn that had fallen in amongst the weeds, and in time, I even saw them going to the water basins.
I was filled with excitement and gratitude for their presence. I knew then that I wanted to regularly share our land with these magnificent winter visitors and so it became a daily joy of mine to feed and welcome these majestic friends to our home. Across the years, we have been blessed to have about 200-300 sandhill cranes visit our land daily. They fly in at dawn, (coming from their nighttime roost on islands in the Rio Grand River and from the Bosque Del Apache), and they stay here with us until sunset, at which time they return to the nighttime safety of their wetlands refuge.
Across the generations of cranes, they have become comfortable with Rick and me, and even our dogs. There is no physical contact between us and the birds of course, but they do trust us and daily mingle among themselves in areas all around the house and the property. The dogs do not harass them but they seem to have wordlessly worked out a comfortable sharing of the land where both birds and canines are free to be. We have added a pond to give the cranes a water feature, erected two bird-feeding stations that serve other wild birds, as well as the more adventuresome cranes wanting to use the thistle-style feeders to feed on a mixture of poultry scratch and sunflower seeds. The cranes cultivate our land with their long, sharp bills as they forage for roots of edible weeds and insects. They also fertilize our land with their droppings. Over the years, the quality of our land and our weeds have been improved by the presence of these helpful bird visitors.
All in all, living here has made for a magical friendship between man, cranes and our dogs. Each species is respected and allowed to go about its own business without threat to the others. The cranes have learned to interpret my vocalizing attempts to mimic their sounds as I call out to them greetings, warnings and messages that convey I am in their vicinity, but am no danger to them as I walk around the land. If they think I am too close, they fly away and re-locate to another area further away from the dogs and me. They allow me to take other people with me on my walks, but we must not startle them, stare directly at them, or move too close to them, or they fly away. This is as it should be for everyone's comfort and safety. They recognize vehicles other then our own and fly away if a new car drives on the road outside our perimeter fence or on our driveway. Consequently, all visitors who want to observe the cranes close up must arrive late in the afternoon or early evening and stay overnight to be here by dawn when the cranes first fly in. When a visitor leaves by driving down the driveway, the cranes will fly away, but they will likely return after a couple of hours if no new cars traverse our driveway.
Over the past 25 years, Rick and I have planted hundreds of trees and shrubs on our property. Now our land is alive with the sights and sounds of roadrunners, doves, red-wing blackbirds, crows, bluebirds, flickers, meadow larks, swallows, lapis lazulis, mockingbirds, Baltimore orioles, Stellar Jays, humming birds, wild canaries, ravens, hawks, vultures, king birds, scarlet tanagers, owls and the occasional bald eagle. Swallows nest in our garage, trusting us to open the garage doors before sunrise so they can fly out to eat mosquitos and other insects to feed their young. Our land has become a wild bird sanctuary to the benefit of both man and our avian friends. It is a joy and privilege to live in the heart of so much natural beauty. It changes your state of mind to reflect greater peace and harmony with all creation. It teaches all who visit here, that indeed it is possible “the lion and the lamb may safely lie down together.”
We also experience various other types of wildlife visiting and making their homes on our little preserve. You may see and hear the melodious music of the coyotes, watch rabbits nibbling on the natural grasses, see the squirrels play and frolic, or catch a rare glimpse of a bobcat, skunk, or one of our lovely (non-poisonous) New Mexico snakes.
Cranehaven property features 32 acres of fenced rural land, surrounded by farm fields, unpaved farm roads, irrigation canals, and a wonderful neighbor whose lovely home is about ¼ mile away from ours. There is a rose garden, a solar fountain constructed of locally quarried flagstone rock, and a pond with cattails and water lilies. The pond has two benches where you can sit and enjoy watching frogs and dragonflies play among the floating lilies. There is a Personal Discovery Walking Path around the property so you can enjoy the outdoors and all it has to offer. There's also a small elm forest that just appeared on its own initiative, and which is an inviting location for having a picnic in the woods. For your deeper enjoyment of Nature, two sky-blue, parachute nylon hammocks are invitingly suspended between tall, shade-rich cottonwood trees. There are also several apple trees, pear trees, apricot trees, pecan trees, a single almond tree, grape vines of several varieties, a recently planted strawberry patch, raspberry bush and a blackberry patch which offer sweet, little delicacies of natural delight. In season, visitors can help themselves to any of the organically grown fruits, nuts and berries that are ready for picking and eating. There is an outside sitting area under the shade of a huge cottonwood tree for meditation, reading, outside enjoyment of your meal or beverage, sitting outside during the magical time of twilight, nighttime star-gazing or searching the skies for UFO presence. (Yes, we have had several opportunities to witness “unidentified flying objects” in the skies above Cranehaven. Who knows what you might see when you look heavenward!)