In this episode of "90 Miles from Needles: The Desert Protection Podcast," host Chris Clarke introduces four books that will challenge preconceptions about the desert. The first book, "The Arid Lands: History, Power, and Knowledge" by Diana K. Davis, challenges the notion that deserts are wastelands in need of development. The second book, "Peoples of a Sonoran Desert Oasis" by Jared Orsi, explores the history and culture of Quito Bacito and the impact of border policies on the oasis. The third book, "Dead in Their Tracks" by John Annerino, sheds light on the human cost of crossing the desert borderlands. Lastly, "Chasing Centuries" by Ron Parker uncovers ancient agave cultivars and their significance in Native American cultures. Tune in to discover a new perspective on the desert.
Buy the books:
See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
0:00:08 - Joe Geoffrey): Think the deserts are barren wastelands? Think again. It's time for 90 miles from Needles, the Desert Protection podcast.
0:00:30 - (Chris Clarke) Thank you, Joe. This is 90 miles from Needles, the Desert Protection podcast. I'm your host, Chris Clarke, and this is the first episode of season three of this podcast. We went through a lot in the last year. We're hoping for much better in this coming year, podcast related and otherwise.
0:00:49 - (Chris Clarke): And we just thank you for tuning in for this very first episode. Since we are pretty close to the beginning of winter and the days, at least the daylit portion of our days, are as short as they can be, and we're finding things to do that involve being inside. For one thing, because it's a little chilly, we thought we would do an episode that had to do with reading books in particular. We have four books to bring to you and discuss a little bit that have they've changed the way I've looked at the deserts, and I think that they will change the way you look at the desert, too.
0:01:30 - (Chris Clarke): All of us come to the desert with preconceptions, even those of us who were born here. There are things that we assume about the desert that aren't always true. And one of the things that we have wanted to do with this podcast for a while is to challenge the preconceptions that people have. We all have our preconceptions, and we all need to have them punctured from time to time. And these books might just do that for you on some assumptions that I certainly had about the desert when I started out.
0:02:02 - (Chris Clarke): But first, a couple of things. One is that I am planning my road trip podcast road trip reaching out to folks in the desert from Las Vegas to Terlingua, Texas. When I get there, I will learn how the locals pronounce that. Looks like the first three weeks in February, I'm going to be traveling, and I hope to run into podcast listeners. 90 miles from needles, listeners spread throughout the desert. Going to be in Las Vegas, in Furnace Creek, Death Valley, Ajo, Arizona and Oregon pipe have a potential speaking gig in aho. Looking forward to that.
0:02:44 - (Chris Clarke): A few days in Tucson, some of which I hope will be spent hanging out with friends and relaxing. But I'm totally open to doing something a little bit more work, like there and then on to southern New Mexico, El Paso, Big Bend, and we'll definitely be getting at least three or four episodes out of this trip, including something on the border, which is going to prove to be relevant in this episode. And yeah, just working on finding out what's going on in your neck of the desert, getting there and doing a story on it.
0:03:19 - (Chris Clarke): Look out for more details on that. The second thing is, one of the places where you can look for more details on that is the new Desert advocacy media Network website. We have possibly the most awesome or the most juvenile, depending on your perspective, domain name in the history of domain names, and that is thedam.org. Okay, I can already think of three that are more juvenile, but that one, it's not bad.
0:03:46 - (Chris Clarke): I think just in terms of the sheer fun, I think we're doing okay with that domain name. Check out the damn website. Definitely earning that Apple podcasts explicit rating just for no reason at all. For no reason at all. But anyway, if you go to thedam.org, you will see a bunch of things that don't work exactly right yet. But we're definitely happy to take bug reports from our faithful listeners. And when you do go to thedam.org, please notice a little purple button that floats around on any of the pages you might have landed on.
0:04:19 - (Chris Clarke): That little purple button says support us with a donation. We need your help. We're trying to grow this organization, this podcast, in all its sister publications and newsletters and things to the point in 2024 where they are more or less self sustaining, including paying people to work on them. And we can't do that without you. We have lots and lots of big plans for the next couple of years, and we definitely could use your help to make them happen. So thedamnorg and now four books that will change the way you look at the desert. We'll present you with an extremely short excerpt of each of these books, just enough to stay within what we feel are reasonable, fair use guidelines, especially considering that we really want you to go buy these books.
0:05:10 - (Chris Clarke): Check out our show notes for links for each of them. Diana Davis is a geographer and veterinarian and professor of history at UC Davis, University of California Davis, up there near Sacramento. She has another book out, at least resurrecting the granary of Rome, which sounds pretty interesting. But this book, the Arid Lands History, Power and Knowledge, which is part of MIT Press's history for a sustainable Future series, challenges one of the most common, and I think one of the most damaging preconceptions about the desert that exists, and namely that deserts are broken versions of other habitats. You've heard me rail on this concept before, but picking up Diana K. Davis's book, the Arid Lands History, Power, and Knowledge, full title, MIT Press, came out in 2016.
0:06:13 - (Chris Clarke): We've been trying to get Dr. Davis on our show hope to do that this year. But when this book came out, it was summarized in a couple of different short essays, excerpts from one of the chapters, and it just absolutely blew my mind. The idea, and this is something that has bothered me for decades, and I haven't been able to put a finger on it. Let's go to square one. When you talk to mainstream environmentalists, and you're talking about big global problems that we have to contend with, that we've caused through our errant behavior, often enough the word desertification will get thrown around.
0:06:52 - (Chris Clarke): And what is desertification? There is actually no real hard and fast scientific description of what desertification is. But the general idea is that through mismanagement, what was a fertile and prosperous and thriving ecosystem of one kind or another, forests, meadows, step savannah, grassland, all that kind of stuff gets broken and turned into desert desertification. It says so right on the tin. Basically, the actions of humans have rendered this land a desert, by which we mean basically not good for much. And we need to step in and repair it. Usually by tree planting. They call it reforestation, but it's actually more properly called aforestation because they're planting trees in places that haven't seen trees in thousands of years.
0:07:46 - (Chris Clarke): The trees aren't there for a reason. And often enough, these landscapes are considered damaged by the actions of people with, I guess you could say, traditional lifestyles, indigenous people, huntergatherer herders, nomadic tribes, people that take goats with them when they go. This is the common conception of the idea of desertification, which is basically just that. These primitive folks don't know what they're doing.
0:08:16 - (Chris Clarke): They're trying to get too much food out of the landscape and in ways that don't really work. And therefore they are degrading the landscape. And what we need to do is come in with our western science and start planting trees and irrigating pumping groundwater. And we've all seen this movie before. Often enough, the efforts to stem the tide of desertification cause more ecological damage than any perceived desertification is. And just to. Just to show that I'm not flying off the handle and interpreting things according to my own special set of biases, which I do have a read a little bit here. From the flap of the arid lands by Diana K. Davis. Deserts are commonly imagined as barren, defiled, worthless places, wastelands in need of development.
0:09:07 - (Chris Clarke): This understanding has fueled extend of anti decertification efforts, a multi million dollar global campaign driven by perceptions of a looming crisis. Davis shows that our notion of the arid lands as wastelands derives largely from politically motivated anglo european colonial assumptions that these regions had been laid waste by traditional uses of the land. Unfortunately, such assumptions still frequently inform policy.
0:09:34 - (Chris Clarke): Drawing on political ecology and an environmental history, Davis traces changes in our understanding of deserts, from the benign views of the classical era to christian associations of the desert with sinful activities to later colonial and neocolonial assumptions of destruction. She further explains how our thinking about deserts is problematically related to our conceptions of forests and desiccation.
0:10:00 - (Chris Clarke): Davis concludes that a new understanding of the arid lands as healthy, natural but variable ecosystems that do not necessarily need improvement or development will facilitate a more sustainable future for the world's magnificent dry lands. But let's not take the publishing house intern's word for it. Let's hear a little bit of Dr. Davis's writing. Let's hear from Dr. Davis herself. This excerpt and the others in this episode are read by Lara Rozzell, my dear spouse and wonderful volunteer. Take it away, Lara. Oh, and there's an acronym that shows up here.
0:10:40 - (Chris Clarke): The UNCCD is the United Nations Convention to combat Desertification.
0:10:46 - (Lara Rozzell): Planting trees with the goal of providing shelter belts or trying to reforest areas assumed to be deforested has been a mainstay of both the development of arid lands and efforts to try to halt desertification. Reforestation aforestation has been particularly promoted by UNCCD. This approach, too, is at least as old as the colonial period and has a long and checkered track record. Many aforestation projects fail because they are attempted where trees have not grown previously under the prevailing climate conditions.
0:11:26 - (Lara Rozzell): Where reforestation aforestation projects have succeeded in terms of the trees surviving, they have frequently used so much groundwater that local water tables have been lowered, wells have run dry, and nearby soils have been desiccated, reducing agricultural yields. As new research has shown, especially in grassy regions, aforestation, or converting historically nonforest lands to forest or tree plantations, can significantly impair ecosystem functions, including hydrology and soil nutrient cycles, and can markedly reduce biodiversity.
0:12:09 - (Lara Rozzell): Examples of this problem come from many parts of the world, including South Africa and the US Southwest, both of which have passed laws requiring the removal of exotic tree species deemed desiccating. South Africa has, in addition, instituted a permitting process designed to reduce future plantings in many arid regions. Aforestation has also led to significant problems with invasive species that have negatively impacted livelihoods and biodiversity.
0:12:40 - (Lara Rozzell): Unfortunately, many organizations and governments continue to plan and implement reforestation projects in ecologically inappropriate regions. The influential World Resources Institute, for instance, has targeted large areas for reforestation and erroneously assumes that non forest areas where climate could theoretically permit forest development are deforested, an assumption rooted in outdated ideas about potential vegetation and the roles of fire and herbivores in natural systems.
0:13:20 - (Lara Rozzell): In other regions, such as the edges of the Sahara, dreams of green dams to hold back the desert have been operationalized since at least the 19th century french administration of Algeria. In the 1970s, Algeria attempted to hold back the spread of the Sahara by trying to plant a 1500 kilometer east to west barrage ver green dam with trees in the very arid southern part of the country. The nomads, through whose traditional territory the green dam was planted, were forced to relocate and sedentarize.
0:14:04 - (Lara Rozzell): A great many of the trees died, and although the project was later revised, it is now largely considered a failure. This fraught experience has not stopped governments in the region from planning similar green dams.
0:15:20 - (Chris Clarke): I got of the desert as a younger man was the oasis right on the border between us and Mexico at Quitobaquito, southern Arizona. Just almost a complete fluke that it was not in northern Mexico when the border was drawn, because it's a literal stone's throw away from the border, and it's a marvelous place. It is habitat, important habitat for a species of pupfish and for a toad that don't exist anywhere else.
0:15:55 - (Chris Clarke): It's a beautiful place and one of the most beautiful stretches of desert that there is. And it's also one of those places that for a long time, at least in my mind, has stood for something bigger than the precise location. We have a wealth of groundwater coming out of the ground in the middle of the desert. That's always a really exciting thing. And then there's all these layers that people have put on top of the oasis at Quitobaquito. The proximity to the border meant that it was severely threatened, and is still severely threatened by federal policy on immigration, border control, or lack thereof. The ridiculous, ineffective, thankfully ineffective, but nonetheless destructive Trump wall went in at no small risk to the oasis at Quitobaquito.
0:16:54 - (Chris Clarke): But one of the first things that, and the complications go much further back than just 2017. One of the first things I learned about Quitobaquito, even before I visited ever, which was in the mid ninety? S, was in writing by Gary Nabhan, who is an extremely renowned, respected reteller, teller and reteller of tales about living in the desert, especially the sonoran desert in southern Arizona, northern Sonora. And in a couple places, Nabhan mentioned Quitobaquito and mentioned the fact that it was an oasis that was extremely important to the Tahono O'odham and the Hyasud Odum, two closely related groups of native people that live still live in the area but were there before settlement happened, european settlement, and that as soon as the park service came in and kicked out the native people from living with and doing landscape management around Quitobaquito, the biological diversity of the oasis began to plummet. It was an interesting and almost throwaway comment, really wasn't the precise topic that Nabhan was writing about. It became relevant, and he mentioned it as almost an aside, and it's always stuck in my mind, especially as I plan to get out to Quitobaquito in the next couple of weeks and do some recording, talking about the border and anything else that might come up as interesting.
0:18:37 - (Chris Clarke): I was especially pleased to find it was a couple of years later it was especially interesting to find a new book that came out in 2023. The University of Oklahoma Press by University of Colorado historian Jared Orsi. The book is peoples of a sonoran desert Oasis recovering the lost history and culture of Quitobaquito. Orsi is someone who has been studying the weird interplay of native and settler cultures, conflict between mexican and american governments, and just the overall world of american border politics.
0:19:21 - (Chris Clarke): And I will confess to you that I am not finished with this book, but it has already really increased the depth of my knowledge about this important place, this amazing, beautiful, threatened location. Backcover blurb in peoples of a sonoran desert oasis, Jared Orsi tells the story of the second largest oasis in the Sonoran Desert, the land, its inhabitants ancient and recent, and the efforts of the National Park Service to air quotes, reclaim Quitobaquito's pristine natural form and to reverse the damage done to the O'odham community and culture, first by colonial incursions and then by proponents of air quotes. Again, preservation.
0:20:01 - (Chris Clarke): Tracing the building and erasing of past landscapes to make some of them more visible in the present, peoples of a sonoran desert Oasis reveals how colonial legacies become embedded in national parks and points to the possibilities that such legacies might be undone and those lost landscapes remade. Now, coming off of six years working with an organization whose aim is to support the National Park Service and to encourage more lands be made into national parks and such, the idea that the National Park Service might have majorly screwed up in its management of Quitobaquito and the rest of Oregon pipe might sound a little counterintuitive.
0:20:42 - (Chris Clarke): Alas, we do have a parallel situation in a desert. I'm much more familiar with the Timbisha Shoshone, whose homeland was turned into a national monument in 1936, whose homeland was turned into a national monument in the 1930s. And the National Park Service, almost up until Congress passed the Timbisha Shoshone Homeland act of 2000, essentially had a policy of eradication of any trace of the Timbisha. So this is not a conundrum that is unfamiliar to me.
0:21:21 - (Chris Clarke): And there is a really important book to be written about the Timbisha, I believe, and their relationships with the National Park Service, but at any rate are different places. Death Valley is not Organ Pipe; it's risky to draw too much of a parallel between the two, but I think it's safe to say that along with many other aspects of american culture and society and governance, the National Park Service has a legacy of colonialism that staff some national park service workers are very interested in reversing the worst aspects of colonialism as they apply to park management. And others, being Americans and being invested in american culture, are less interested in hearing it.
0:22:11 - (Chris Clarke): But anyway, here's a section from peoples of the sonoran desert Oasis recovering the lost history and culture of Quitobaquito by Jared Orsi, University of Oklahoma Press.
0:22:22 - (Lara Rozzell): 2023 on September 9, 2020, a Hia C-eḍ O'odham woman climbed into the bucket of a backhoe not far from Quitobaquito. Both the construction equipment and aAber Ortega were there because of the border wall, the backhoe to build it, Ortega to stop it. The wall, Ortega later said, felt violent. It felt degrading. It felt like a continuation of the violence done to our people. She believed she had to defend her people and their land.
0:22:56 - (Lara Rozzell): She was also violating a legal safety closure order. Border Patrol agents and park service law enforcement asked her to leave. As an indigenous person on ancestral tribal land, she suggested they should leave. In a video taken of the incident, someone shouts, this is O'odham land. This is sacred area. This is where our ancestors are from. You do not have permission to be here. We need you to cease and desist.
0:23:26 - (Lara Rozzell): Take your machines with you. The rangers arrested Ortega and a fellow protester, Nellie Joe David, also Hia C-eḍ, and drove them 3 hours to an Immigration and Customs enforcement detention center. The two women endured shackles, strip searches, and verbal invective. They got no bed to sleep in that night and no phone until the next morning. Even after release, they were required to check in frequently, give video tours of their homes, and submit regular urine samples.
0:24:03 - (Lara Rozzell): They were prohibited from leaving the state. To escape this living hell, David pled guilty and paid her $200 fine, but Ortega fought it. She was not a trespasser, she insisted, rather invoking the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration act. She maintained that she had acted under sincere religious conviction in defense of her people's sacred space. Her hearing took place in November 2021, and in January she was acquitted.
0:24:38 - (Lara Rozzell): So thoroughly invisible had Quitobaquito's past landscapes become that when remnants of them, such as the daughter of people who had lived there for thousands of years, showed up, they appeared to be interlopers. Quitobaquito, a rich palimpsest of landscapes, had become a place of erasure and lucian.
0:25:33 - (Chris Clarke): Stick with the border for a little bit longer in 1996, the US government made a change to immigration policy that would result in thousands of needless deaths among people trying to enter the country. Called Operation Gatekeeper, the new policy chose to discourage migration into the United States from Mexico and country south by closing the easiest places to enter, the safest places to enter the US.
0:26:02 - (Chris Clarke): In El Paso, in Nogales, in San Diego. Prior to 1996, a person could cross the border and grab a bus on the other side and get somewhere safe. In 1996, with Operation Gatekeeper, the federal government decided that they wanted to come as close to closing the border as possible by shutting down the easy routes into the cities along the border and forcing migrants who wanted to enter the country without benefit of paperwork to consider crossing a 60 miles stretch of some of the most forbidding desert in the world.
0:26:37 - (Chris Clarke): These are landscapes where people have lived for thousands of years and gotten along just fine, and they tend to know where the water sources are. Surely, the federal government thought in 1996, no one is going to be desperate enough to walk across the sonoran desert in the middle of the summer for 60 miles with no water. But as it turned out, Operation Gatekeeper was essentially a death sentence for thousands of people.
0:27:01 - (Chris Clarke): This is happening to this day. Those of us who breathed a sigh of relief after the 2020 election and thought that some sanity was going to be coming back and some kindness was going to be coming back to us immigration policy have been sorely disappointed as Biden continues to build the wall and everybody else blames it on Trump. And in the meantime, people in my desert activist community don't always pay this human rights catastrophe, this humanitarian disaster, the attention that it deserves.
0:27:34 - (Chris Clarke): And that's not a new situation. In 1999, outdoor photographer John Annerino essentially embedded himself with a group of migrants that he met in northern Mexico and walked with them across this desert, facing the same risks of death by hyperthermia, by dehydration, by snake bite, by drowning. Yet there is a canal blocking the way that people have to forward, depending on the route they take. And so a lot of people who die coming into the country die through drowning. Annerino walked with these men and shared their hardships, shared their hopes.
0:28:08 - (Chris Clarke): I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying the group that he traveled with was lucky, as such things go, in that they made it. The book that resulted is sadly out of print, but used copies are still widely available in all the usual places. Dead in their tracks, crossing America's desert borderlands. Four Walls, eight Windows Press, 1999 was the first printing. It's just an incredibly compelling book, and those of us who look at the desert borderlands as some kind of capital letters, federal policy issue or political football, I think could really use a gander at this book just to humanize some of the people that are contending with the incredible hardship that is required in order to cross the US Mexico border in the sonoran desert. Here's a sample.
0:29:04 - (Lara Rozzell): We push on into the searing maw of the Growler valley, an ancient travel corridor used by the Hohokam people circa ad 1000. They wandered this virtually waterless blast of desert from the salt and Gila rivers 150 to 200 miles south to the Gulf of California, in their ritual quest for blue glycemrous shells they fashioned into sacred pendants and jewelry. Today, another modern immigration route crosses the Camino del Diablo in this sprawling desert valley and follows the ancient path of the Hohocome through an active bombing zone in the Barry M. Goldwater Range.
0:29:47 - (Lara Rozzell): But it is a desert journey far beyond the reach of most people. I peer north into that unimaginable distance, and what shimmers in the heat waves dancing on the horizon line is the haunting mirage of 14 men lying in the shade of an ironwood tree. No one has ever found them, but they are still out there, their rubber soles curling off their bony feet, their cracked plastic water jugs filling with sand, their leather scalps peeling back from their white skulls, the wallet sized smiles of their loved ones turning brittle in their gnarled black hands.
0:30:29 - (Lara Rozzell): In the Piman language, Hohokum is said to mean those who have vanished. And on the forlorn western flanks of the 3029 foot Growler mountains, pictographs of seashells still mark the ancient Hohokum waterhole those desperate men almost reached. But like the Hohokum, they too have vanished. And no one knows who they were, where they came from, or what words passed from their lips before they all perished.
0:31:01 - (Lara Rozzell): Follow the arc of the Sand Papago trail northwest from Bates well, 110 miles across the desert to dome on what was believed to be a three day journey for Arizona's ancient Bedouins. Beyond the mass grave of the vanished ones, the scattered, sunbleached bones of at least a dozen other men are said to be slowly turning to dust in the black lava of the 1800 foot Aguila Mountains. A legend, some say. But you need only imagine the salvadoran tragedy out here in this fearful expanse of no man's land.
0:31:39 - (Lara Rozzell): And who would have ever found them or even known they walked off the face of the earth in search of the golden land. Someday, I promised myself I would look for their remains, too, and add their haunting images to the venerable list of honest men who disappeared in their dire search for the american dream. But reports keep surfacing. The death toll never stops mounting, and the illusory phantoms become impossible to track down alone on foot in a killing ground that runs to the horizon in every direction.
0:32:29 - (Chris Clarke): Om you might have had this experience where you're walking somewhere that seems pretty wild. Seems like people haven't really used the area for some time. Maybe it's a second growth oak and bay forest in the coastal mountains of California. Maybe it's deep in the Appalachians, and you come upon something incongruous. Maybe it's an apple orchard. You have trees growing in the usual kind of fractal, chaotic, beautiful, random confusion that constitutes forests, where all the trees are in places that make sense to them. And then all of a sudden you have stuff in a straight line growing.
0:33:40 - (Chris Clarke): Could be apple trees that have been unproned for 100 years, except by deer and bears. Could be, as I used to see back east, sometimes a row of naturalized daffodils that clearly were at some point planted in a straight line and kept reproducing and reproducing even after the homesteaders moved away. There are little touches that they don't precisely change the experience that you had, but they add something to it.
0:34:07 - (Chris Clarke): They add a note that you are not the first person to come along here. You are not the first person to observe this place. There are people in the past that you might not ever be able to figure out who they are, who worked in this place. And if they were sensitive enough to plant daffodils instead of something to eat or drink, something to feed livestock, they maybe loved the place and were predisposed to look for beauty there.
0:34:34 - (Chris Clarke): It's a different way of looking at a landscape. Ron Parker is a horticulturalist and avid hobbyist when it comes to agaves and related plants. Lives near Phoenix. He has founded a website where fanciers of agaves can talk to each other. It's an old school PhPBB website, really vibrant community called agaveville.org. Check it out. And when he first started hiking in Arizona, he would see agaves that he couldn't identify to species. They'd be a little bit like one species, but lack a characteristic that species always had, or they would have a characteristic that species never had.
0:35:21 - (Chris Clarke): And he found more and more of these kinds of random, weird agaves hiking in the mountains, which he, before too long, realized were actually as artificial as corn or asparagus or cabbage. These are agave cultivars that were planted by people that lived in the area that needed either to grow everything they needed or to grow things that they could trade for things they needed that they couldn't grow.
0:35:50 - (Chris Clarke): In other words, the agaves that Ron Parker was seeing were essentially surviving vegetable gardens. Or maybe they were tree farms for fiber. And unlike apple trees in coastal California, unlike daffodils and amaryllis and lilocks in the forests of the northeast, agaves don't have enough familiarity in the general american culture that they would immediately stand out if they weren't just an og native species, if they were some species that was adopted and modified and cherished by people that came before them. But that's what we have in the deserts of Arizona and likely a lot of other places.
0:36:34 - (Chris Clarke): Parker took these observations and rolled them up into a book, which is a fascinating and way too compelling read called chasing centuries, the search for ancient agave cultivars across the desert southwest, published by Sunbelt Publications in 2019. So it's pretty recent, the blurb says. Chasing Centuries is a one of a kind travel history book that takes the reader long on an exciting and little known adventure at the crossroads of archaeology and botany that examines the depth and duration of human agave coevolution across the desert southwest.
0:37:10 - (Chris Clarke): Travel with author Ron Parker as he discovers interesting assortments of unusual agaves apparently associated with archaeological sites long since abandoned by residents of ancient cultures. These agaves appear to be anthropogenic cultivars, living archaeological relics developed and planted by indigenous, pre columbian Native Americans. Here's a little piece of it.
0:37:29 - (Lara Rozzell): Indigenous Native Americans have been happily coexisting with and using agave for a very long time. Coprolite analysis suggests early paleo Indians have been ingesting agave for more than 9000 years. Additional evidence includes quids and ancient artifacts made from agave fiber. Quids are fibrous remnants of plant material, which are chewed but not usually consumed, such as chewing tobacco. Large numbers of agave quids have been unearthed at very old archaeological sites in southern Mexico, and these quids have been studied and linked to a particular type of dental wear.
0:38:12 - (Lara Rozzell): So one prominent use of agave was as a food source. Agaves undergo a dramatic transformation before they produce an inflorescence and bloom. Leaves thin. Marginal spines wane and the base begins to swell as sugars are collected for the production of nectar. This is when agaves are harvested, leaves are trimmed off and agave cabezas, spanish for heads now looking for all the world like giant pineapples, are collected and tossed into a makeshift oven for cooking and processing.
0:38:48 - (Lara Rozzell): A pit is dug and a coal fire started at the bottom. Once a fire is raging, cabezas are added, then covered, and another fire started on top. Two to four days later, roasted agave cabezas are collected and eagerly consumed. Roasted flesh is soft and sweet, often compared to molasses and sweet potatoes. Flowers and unopened buds could also be processed as food items. In addition to consumables, agave leaves have long been processed for fiber and terminal spines, used as needles to craft snares, nets, rope, clothing, pottery, basketry, blankets, and sandals.
0:39:34 - (Lara Rozzell): Terminal spines have also long been used as construction nails and one agave part or another crafted as fish, stringer, armor, lance, paint, and ceremonial objects. Some agaves have even been used as a source of poison for hunting and fishing. Stalks were used as all manner of building material made fine walking sticks and are to this day fashioned into stringed musical instruments and flutes by modern day Americans.
0:40:29 - (Lara Rozzell): SA.
0:40:54 - (Chris Clarke): End so we end the first episode of season three of 90 Miles from needles, the Desert Protection podcast. Huge thanks to Lara Rozzell. Lovely to have her voice in the podcast, and it's lovely that she puts up with me in all those other realms. So thank you Lara. Thanks as well to Joe Geoffrey, who is our new voiceover announcer. You hear him at the very beginning and the very end of this podcast. You can check out Joe's other work by going to joegeoffrey.com.
0:41:28 - (Chris Clarke): His last name is Jeffrey with a geo instead of a je. So joegeoffrey.com check it out. He does some great work. Thanks as well to Danielle Segura and to all of the rest of you who responded to various appeals on social media for things like GivingTuesday, as well as my New Year's birthday fundraising ask. You made us feel all nice and warm and cozy and cuddly and appreciated. And lastly, thank you to Covid-19 variant jn.1 for granting me this sexy, sexy, sexy deep bass enhanced voice. Thank God it's temporary.
0:42:16 - (Chris Clarke): Please take care of yourselves. You don't want to end up like me. Look forward to episodes coming up, including one on the recent victory against a glamping resort in Joshua Tree. Thanks again. Thanks for listening. Stay in love with the desert and we will see you at the watering hole. Miles from Needles is a production of the Desert Advocacy Media Network.