If There’s Squash Bugs in Heaven, I Ain’t Staying is a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking read for any gardener who has ever dreamed of having his or her own farm, or anyone interested in the rich history of Corrales. In this book, Stacia Spragg-Braude beautifully captures the life and energy of her friend Evelyn Losack, beloved music teacher and third-generation Corrales farmer. Losack’s great-grandparents were Italian immigrants who sang opera among the apples and peaches in their orchard. At age 85, she still works their land, sells produce at the growers’ market her mother helped start, and is famed for her multi-fruited pies.
Water is a driving force in Losack’s life and in the history of Corrales, whether by its scarcity or overabundance. Losack takes 60-second showers and has nightmares about faucets being left on, never forgetting that drought hits farmers the hardest. Yet Corrales has always been subject to epic floods, even as recently as last year – from the east by the Rio Grande, as well as from the west by runoff from the mesa, especially since development began in Rio Rancho. Evelyn’s husband, Johnnie Losack, and her mother, for whom the Dulcelina Salce Curtis Flood Control Channel is named, helped to establish the Southern Sandoval County Flood Control Authority.
The current drought is New Mexico’s worst since the 1880’s. Last year, like many other farmers, Losack did not plant her field at all; instead she used all of her water allotment on her orchard to keep the trees from dying. The irrigation season normally runs from March 1 to October 31, but for several years now it has been cut short when the Rio Grande’s flow dropped too low. Indeed, 2013 saw the earliest curtailment ever, due to lack of snowpack in Colorado – water from the 300 year old acequias was cut off in April for many farmers. Corrales’ largest agricultural producer, Wagner Farms, has moved much of their operation to the south near Los Lunas. Losack is considering drilling a shallow irrigation well as a last resort. This year, although she knows it is a gamble, Losack has once planted her field with vegetables for the market.
Losack and Spragg-Braude also work with Youth Conservation Corps members on the Juan Gonzales Bas Heritage Farm, a 5.5 acre parcel purchased by the village just off Corrales Road near the library. The project provides an opportunity for local kids to keep the farming tradition alive in Corrales; they sell their produce at the growers’ market as well as helping the fire department with bosque fire prevention projects.
If There’s Squash Bugs in Heaven, I Ain’t Staying is a celebration of the joy and uncertainty of farming, of memories and traditions colliding with 21st-century realities. It highlights Corrales’ delicate relationship with the Rio Grande, and a farmer’s intimate knowledge of climate, water and land. Evelyn Losack is a larger-than-life character, filled with wisdom, humor, generosity, and boundless devotion to her community. Stacia Spragg-Braude’s photos and words are luminous with love for her place and its seasons. Spragg-Braude is also the author of To Walk in Beauty: A Navajo Family’s Journey Home.