Thursday, June 21, 2018

El Camino de Barrio Atajo – The Royal Road's Shortcut Through Rancho Viejo

For more than two centuries, from 1598 to 1882, the 1,600-mile long El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro [“The Royal Road of the Interior”] was the main line of communication and trade between the Spanish government in Mexico City and its distant frontier outpost of New Mexico and its Capital City of Santa Fe.  Literally everything the people of New Mexico needed that they could not produce themselves had to be transported over this vital link to the outside world.

So to have an historical connection, however tenuous, to this route without which New Mexico would not be what it is today – would be pretty cool.  So today’s question is, “Did El Camino Royal pass through what today is called Rancho Viejo?” – the 23,000-acre (39 square mile) parcel of land in southern Santa Fe County, which contains the HOA community in which Marsha and I now live.
A definite “yes” is what I am hoping for.  But I will certainly settle for a “possibly could have.” 
In 1582 Fray Bernardo Beltran and Antonio de Espejo led an expedition to New Mexico in search of Fray Agustin Rodrigues and his fellow priests who one year earlier had gone north from Mexico to explore the region traveled initially by Vasquez de Coronado in 1540.   Many of the priests of the 1581 odyssey were killed en route.  Fray Rodrigues and another cleric chose to stay to try and convert the Indians – but both disappeared and Beltran and Espejo failed to find any traces of either of them. The report of Beltran’s and Espejo’s travels is credited with the first official use of the term "La Nuevo Mexico" to describe the area – as well as being the first to enter this region with wagons.  In 1598, Don Juan de Onate followed these wheel tracks as he traveled northward to become Nuevo Mexico’s first governor in its initial capital at San Gabriel de Yungue-Ouinge, just west of present-day Ohkay Owingeh where the Rio Chama meets the Rio Grande.
Robert J. Torrez writes on,
“Every two or three years, a supply train composed of several dozen wagons loaded with supplies would head north towards Santa Fe, nearly sixteen-hundred miles away. These sturdy, four-wheel vehicles were pulled by teams of up to eight mules or oxen and carried food items that were not grown in New Mexico, including sugar and olive oil for cooking as well as welcome treats such as chocolate. Transportation of many other items of Spanish material culture, such as paper, cloth, shoes, medicine, musical instruments, barrels of sacramental wine, iron, gunpowder, and other supplies needed by the mission churches and the Spanish colonists, made the royal road an important factor in the survival of the colony.
“Finally, six months after leaving Mexico, the caravan arrived at Santa Fe. Anxious government officials would eagerly open leather pouches bulging with important government papers; local citizens, eager for news from home, would inquire about mail from loved ones; the wagons would be unloaded and the supplies distributed throughout the province. For the next four to six months, trade goods from the missions and settlements would be gathered in preparation for the return trip to Mexico. Vast flocks of sheep were collected; raw wool, buffalo and deer hides, pine nuts, salt, wool blankets, and woven stockings were carefully packed and loaded on the wagons. Soon the caravan would begin its long trip south, completing another cycle of trade and communication over the camino real—New Mexico's royal road.”
Over time the travelers of El Camino Real developed alternate sub-routes within the overall path.
As the caravans approached Santa Fe there were three clear choices: “one gave travelers the choice of scaling the basalt behemoth [of La Bajada], another followed the Santa Fe River through the yawning canyon of Las Bocas (the Mouths), and the third required another, longer trek around La Bajada through the Galisteo Basin,” according to the National Park Service web site.
It is that third option that could cause the Royal Road to find its way through the Rancho Viejo – possibly just up the street and a few feet into the desert plains from our actual place of residence.  
A major reason for traveling through the Basin was the presence of the eponymous Galisteo Creek – aka Galisteo River.  (We do like to overstate the size of few water sources that we have out here.)  Santa Fe residents, and visitors such as soldiers of both the U.S. Cavalry and the Confederate Army during the 1800s would regularly water their horses, and themselves, at the perennial stream that flows from the eastern highlands down into the Rio Grande through Galisteo.  I learned this during a one-on-one meeting I was fortunate enough to have with Dr. Eric Blinman, Director of the state’s Office of Archaeological Studies.  I was asking him about possible historic and prehistoric transients through the present day Rancho Viejo property.  And he pointed out that it is a “straight shot” from “The City Different” through Rancho Viejo to the Galisteo Creek.
One Rancho that travelers on the Royal Road most definitely did pass through was what is today El Rancho de las Golondrinas (The “Ranch of the Swallows”) – the living history museum in La Cienega, NM at which Marsha and I volunteer.  The first owner of record for this large property was Miguel Vega y Coca who acquired the land in the early 1700s. For many years y Coca’s estancia (literally “stay”) was a paraje (wayside camping spot) on the Camino Real – providing goods for trade and serving as the last stop for travelers heading north to Santa Fe, and the first for those on the southbound journey to Mexico.  The paraje is mentioned explicitly by, among others, the Spanish military leader and governor, Don Juan Bautista de Anza, who he stopped there with his expeditionary force in 1780.
Rancho Viejo’s part on the Royal Road does not have the same written documentation as does The Ranch of the Swallows.   But sometimes all it takes for somewhere to be considered historically significant is for it to geographically come between two genuinely historic locales that historic people needed to travel between – the neighborhood shortcut (“barrio atajo”) that everybody knows about, and uses. 
That certainly sounds like a “possibly could have” to me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Litle Colcha

Many readers of this know that Marsha is an enthusiastic and (IMHO) quite talented knitter.  So when we moved to Santa Fe and decided to volunteer at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, the Spanish Colonial living history museum in the nearby “census-designated place”* of La Cienega, it was a natural that her major “character playing role” interest was to be someone who practices the fiber arts of that historic period.
And as the museum’s website indicates there are plenty of opportunities to “learn [and practice] traditional activities and crafts like colcha embroidery, washing wool with yucca root, carding, spinning on wheels and malacates (spindles), dyeing with vegetable dyes, and weaving on two & four-harness looms.”
Here in northern New Mexico weaving is the preeminent Spanish – and Native American – fiber craft.  In fact weaving with locally grown cotton has been happening in the Southwest since about 800 AD – eight centuries before the arrival of any Europeans.  The Chimayo Weavers website says, “When the Spanish came to the Southwest, the Pueblo Indians were made to weave as part of their subjugation. The churro sheep brought by the Spanish became the new fiber source, and the striped, longer-than-wide format of the Rio Grande blanket was adopted for Pueblo blankets. In 1680 the Pueblo Revolt occurred, and the Spanish were driven back to El Paso del Norte. When the Spanish returned to New Mexico, more cooperative arrangements were made for peaceful coexistence. Pueblo weaving today consists of mantas, including elaborately embroidered examples, sashes of varying widths and weave structures, and the striped blanket descendants of those woven for Spanish overlords.”

Marsha has already taken her first weaving steps at El Rancho, wefting several inches on the museum’s pedal loom during the recent Fiber Fest.  She also plans on learning colcha embroidery, which was popular from the early 1700s to late 1800s in the southwest United States.

According to, “the traditional Spanish Colonial colcha designs were influenced by East Indian prints and 18th century crewel. So, the designs included flowers, leaves, birds, often with a central medallion. The stitch that became known as ‘colcha’ was a self-couching stitch [aka Convent Stitch, Klosterstitch, Span Stitch, and Spannstitch.”]  I am guessing that the “East Indian prints and 18th century crewel” that influenced colcha designs must have somehow come to northern New Mexico by way of the Camino Real and/or the Santa Fe Trail, which were really the only sources of new ideas for this at-the-time really isolated part of the North American continent.
While the majority of colcha embroidery was done on bedspreads made of “sabanilla”, a loosely-woven wool fabric with a 12- to 22-thread count, it also appeared frequently on runners and altar cloths.
But did the Spanish knit?  Indeed yes.
The oldest knitted pieces that have been discovered are some intricately patterned socks (sometimes called Coptic socks) made of white and indigo cotton in Egypt around 1000 - 1400 AD.  But the complexity and level of skill exhibited in these pieces of footwear clearly indicate this was not that first knitter’s first ever project.
So it is likely that knitting began closer to the low end of the above date range and was an extension of an earlier fiber art known as “nålbinding” – an hand craft known to have been in existence circa 250 – 420 AD that uses a single needle and produces a very similar-looking product.  Knitting likely began when an early nålbinder, possible under deadline to get that birthday present done, picked up a second needle and tada! – a brand new craft is born.
And, according to this Egyptian invention then spread to Spain “carried over by Arabs during the Islamic Conquest or brought back by Spaniards during the Crusades – before exploding into the rest of Europe [where initially] it was mostly confined to the very rich, very royal or very religious (as in the Catholic Church).”
To that point, the oldest European knitting relics are some detailed silk pillow covers that date to around 1275 A.D., which were found in the tomb of Prince Fernando de la Cerdo of Spain.  Most of the early knit objects in Spain, not surprisingly, were liturgical garments and accessories for the Catholic Church, knitted of very fine yarn and sometimes stitched with gold and silver threads.
By the 14th century knitting had spread to Italy and Germany as evidenced by my personal favorite thing I discovered in this research, the “knitting Madonnas” – paintings depicted the Virgin Mary sitting beside the baby Jesus, needles in hand, slipping, purling, and decreasing.      

So why was the BVM knitting?  The Cambridge History of Western Textiles believes these paintings indicate that knitting had more become commonplace and even fashionable among upper-class women – “sweetly domestic” according to Donna Kooler in the Encyclopedia of Knitting.  As we will quickly see, knitting in the 1500s was very much of a guy-thing, so “it is unlikely that reverent altarpieces of the Madonna and Christ would introduce a revolutionary theme of the Madonna usurping a male-dominated trade.”
As mentioned earlier the hard-core knitters in Spain were the all-male knitting guilds that kept the Spanish men of style, in style.  “Men in knee breeches depended upon elegant legs for their fashion status, and baggy stockings were a disaster,” says historian Irena Turnau.  In addition to form-fitting stockings members of the guild had to demonstrate their expertise in making felted caps, embroidered gloves, shirts, waistcoats and knitted carpets.
My own las Gomondrinas character is that of a “vecino” farmer or miller (depending upon where I am needed) – neither of which call for the display of my elegant legs in knee length breeches.  In fact the trousers I wear are largely indistinguishable from Levi jeans but for the stiffer canvas material, button fly, and lack of belt loops.  So I will not be beseeching my favorite vecina for any custom-made leg ware.   Marsha has however offered to crochet a red sash to add a little color to my gray, black and white ensemble.
And in return for this kind gift I am going work on finding an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe – our favorite icon (southwest or otherwise) – wefting away on a pedal mill.  Or better yet perhaps convent-stiching colcha roses onto the cape of Juan Diego – the recently canonized native Mexican peasant to whom the Virgin appeared in 1531.
Since moving out here we have seen Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe's image just about everywhere, e.g. tattooed onto the backs, arms, and legs of women and men – or decorating the hoods of highly polished low-rider cars.  So why not doing a little colcha?


El Casa de las Golondrinas

When the swallows started clinging to our front door screen and looking longingly into the house we became a little concerned.  We have after all, like most of you, seen Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds” – or at least some of the scarier, more ominous scenes from it.
We had already figured that a pair of the fork-tailed, fast-flying, insect-eating birds were looking to set up some form of joint residency with us during their summer stay in the Santa Fe area.  One of the recent conversations on “Nextdoor”, the private Internet social network for our neighborhood centered around how to “cure” the birds from “building mud nests near ceiling of entry.”  Suggestions included hanging glittery tape and/or CDs, “bird netting laced through 2 thin drapery tension rods”, red Christmas wrapping ribbon, incense sticks, and “Amazon Bird Blind tape, hung around the porch.”  On the other side – there always is at least one other side on the Nextdoor app – many folks cited the bird’s mosquito-eating benefit, said the nest would only be there a few weeks, and to let it be and “just clean up the poop on [your] front step.”
Our instinct was to go with the latter “live and let live” approach – especially since we are volunteers at an historic rancho and living history museum named El Rancho de las Golondrinas – “The Swallows Ranch.”  Not to put too much faith into what could be a simple punctuation error, but we noticed it did not say “swallow’s” with an apostrophe, which would have implied avian ownership.   So we figured the little golondrinas, which also have nests in various populated places around the ranch, were the type of co-residents who wouldn’t be too demanding.
Before the whole screen scene we were noticing the pair of them hanging out atop a two foot tall plastic owl that came with the house and dangles from the ceiling in the outermost corner of the portal entry – about six feet from our house’s front door.  The purpose of the statue as we understand it is to scare pigeons and other birds away from our garden or property.  It sure isn’t decorative.  Obviously however “other birds” do not include golondrinas.  We couldn’t see up high enough to tell what the little guys were doing up there – but they we there, and we were here – and that all seemed just fine.
Suddenly we noticed them clinging to our screen – which incidentally is not a swinging door but instead a sliding barrier that curls up into one side of the doorway when not in use, and is held in place by magnet when fully unfurled.  Then, looking more carefully, Marsha realized they seemed to be coveting the dried flower and straw wreath that hung on the outside of the wooden front door itself – and, when opened, stood at a right angle to the mesh insect excluder – clearly visible and teasingly close.  Perhaps that was the source of their building materials we mused.  But when we ourselves looked closely at the apparent object of their affection we could see the concave beginnings of what would ultimately become a tiny mud and straw nest on the main entry to our house.
This potential situation brought to mind a similar story about an aunt and uncle of Marsha’s who retired to Green Valley, Arizona that resulted in them bypassing that means of entry for the duration of the bird’s building, birthing, and ultimate empty-nesting.
Not to be cruel and since the nest was far enough along to recognize its possibility but not so complete as to be yet usable, we took down the wreath.  And to our relief the little house-builders seem to have simply transferred their nesting spot to the top of the head of the decoy owl – previously their on deck area – and from which they now look down less wistfully at the activities in our front entryway, and no longer need to cling like predatory home invaders eagerly waiting for their next chance.
So for this summer at least, welcome to El Casa de las Golondrinas – without the apostrophe, we hope.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Battle of Glorieta Pass or Why New Mexico is not a Southern State/

Recently Marsha and I toured the Glorieta Pass Battlefield, the site of one of New Mexico’s two military engagements during the U.S. Civil War.  

Back in 1792 French explorer Pedro Vial blazed a trail from Independence, Missouri to northern New Mexico.  In 1828 – when merchants from the eastern United States sought to take advantage of new trade opportunities with Mexico, which had just won independence from Spain and taken control of  New Mexico – Vial’s way west, soon known as the Santa Fe Tail, would become the preferred way to get there.
At this end of the trail lay the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains through which two passages were established.  Raton Pass, on the border between Colorado and New Mexico, was narrow and steep and initially proved suitable only for packhorses.  A 7,432' high, one-half mile wide crossing at Glorieta Pass between the mountains and the red wall of Glorieta Mesa proved to be easier to negotiate and became the path of choice.  The surrounding forests possibly inspired the name Glorieta, which translates to “bower” meaning “a pleasant shady place under trees.”  The Spanish word also can mean a small square, or a roundabout – as in traffic circle, which is how it is commonly used today in parts of Spain and South America. 
New Mexico had become a U.S. Territory in 1848 when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (named for the villa in which it was signed). ended the Mexican American War. So what was the “War Between the States” doing in The Land of Enchantment?
According to Charles S. Walker writing in the New Mexico Historical Review, “The Confederate invasion of New Mexico was the initial movement of a campaign the object of which was the seizure of the entire American Southwest and the northern Mexican states. The cause of the invasion was the desire to see the Confederacy a sea-to-sea power with all the advantages which a nation reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific between the parallels twenty-six and thirty-six north latitude might enjoy.”
A big part of this equation, according to H, our tour leader, was the possibility of a coast-to-coast collection of “slave states”.  Texas, with its cotton farming economy, already was pro-slave.   However, while the people of the southern portion of the New Mexico had closer economic and cultural ties to the South, the northern section with more voting power had strong business connections with the Union states via Missouri and The Santa Fe Trail.  As evidence of that southern discontent with being overruled, a convention held at Mesilla New Mexico on March 16, 1861 adopted a decree of secession, and called on the citizens of the western portion of the New Mexico Territory to "join us in this movement".
U.S. Army General Henry H. Sibley had been stationed in Arizona before the outbreak of the war, and, like many other southern officers, resigned his commission.  He then traveled east to inform Confederate President Davis of the situation in New Mexico, and outlined a campaign to takeover the entire Territory.   It was the execution of this strategy that culminated in the Battle of Glorieta Pass.
Sibley’s plan, of which Jefferson Davis approved, was: to raise an army of three regiments in West Texas; march up the Rio Grande River; capture Santa Fe; turn northeast on the Santa Fe Trail; capture the supplies of equipment and food at Fort Union; head up to Colorado and take control of the gold fields; and then turn west to conquer California and its seaports.  Fort Union (1851 – 1891) and the soon to be mentioned Fort Craig (1853 – 1885) were among the series of forts constructed in the wake of the U.S. – Mexico war and outlined in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Marching to that plan Sibley and 3,500 men invaded the New Mexico Territory in February 1862 with the immediate objective of capturing Fort Craig located along El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, near Elephant, New Mexico.  They were met near the town of Valverde at a ford of Valverde Creek on February 20, 1862 by 3,000 men led by Union Colonel Edward Richard Sprigg Canby who had left that fortified building to prevent the Confederates from crossing the river. 
Initially Canby’s troops drove the Rebels back, but the Texans regrouped and launched a frontal attack that drove Canby into retreat.  After two days of fighting Canby requested a truce under a white flag in order to remove the bodies of the dead and wounded.  During the cessation Sibley decided that he had lost too many men and supplies to take Fort Craig itself, and went north to Albuquerque, where the Federals had stored more goods. They reached Albuquerque on March 2nd and attacked, however the Union defenders had already left town with all of the supplies.
Sibley continued slowly north to Santa Fe where he dispatched a group of 600 men to take the Capital city – which they did on March 13, however, once again, there was no federal ammunition or supplies.  They did however hoist the Confederate Battle Flag over the plaza – then headed to Fort Union, some ninety miles to the northeast.  Meanwhile Union reinforcements from Colorado, under the command of Colonel John Slough, reached Fort Union.  Canby then ordered Slough to “harass the enemy by partisan operations, obstruct his movements and cut off his supplies”, which Slough chose to interpret as “advance on the enemy.”  He gathered 1,342 men from Fort Union and began the march to Santa Fe.
Both Union and Confederate forces moved north to the Santa Fe Trail at Glorieta Pass.  Sibley, who had remained in Albuquerque, sent a Confederate force of 200-300 Texans under the command of Maj. Charles L. Pyron on an advance expedition over the Glorieta Pass, and six companies led by of Col. Tom Green to block the eastern end of Glorieta Pass.  Meanwhile Union forces made a fourteen-day, 400-mile forced march from Denver, over Raton Pass, to Fort Union and then to Glorieta Pass.  On March 26, 27 and 28 both sides locked horns in what some have called the "Gettysburg of the West" – a term that "serves the novelist better than the historian" according to historian Thomas Edrington.  To that point– casualties at Gettysburg totaled 23,049 for the Union (3,155 dead, 14,529 wounded, 5,365 missing); Confederate casualties were 28,063 (3,903 dead, 18,735 injured, and 5,425 missing) versus at Glorieta Pass Union casualties were (51 killed, 78 wounded, 15 captured, 3 missing); and Confederate (50 killed, 80 wounded, 92 captured.)  But while Gettysburg was the “high-water mark of the Confederacy”, Glorieta effectively ended any possibility of Jefferson Davis’ dream of a coast-to-coast collection of “slave states”. 
The conflict played out at and around three major stops on the Santa Fe Trail – Johnson’s Ranch, Pigeon’s Ranch, and Kozlowski’s Ranch.
Anthony P. Johnson established his ranch at the western end of Glorieta Pass in what today is called Cañoncito at Apache Canyon.  From St. Louis Missouri, Johnson, came west along the Santa Fe Trail in the late 1840s and worked as a teamster at Fort Union. He bought the land on which he built his ranch of adobe and rock in 1858. Johnson sold the ranch around was found murdered ten years later.
Moving north to the village of Pecos and then west on State Road 50, still following much of the Santa Fe Trail nearly to Glorieta, New Mexico, was Pigeon’s ranch – a small portion of which remains today.   The ranch was built by Alexander Vallé, a French-American also from St. Louis, Missouri who followed the Santa Fe Trail westward until settling upon this narrow spot on the trail. The 35th Congress awarded him title to a land grant in 1857 or 1858, indicating that he had received a Mexican land grant during that country’s occupancy of New Mexico, possibly from Governor Manuel Armijo in the 1840s. Armijo granted tracts of land to many foreigners who promised to settle the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and act as a buffer between the settlements along the Rio Grande Santa Fe corridor and the Plains Indians.
On his land Vallé built a twenty-three-room complex with a principal structure that “formed a kind of Asiatic caravansary”, and a double corral for enclosing and protecting loaded wagons with attached sheds with stalls for draft horses and mules. Initially named Rancho de la Glorieta, it popularly came to be known as Pigeon's Ranch, according to folklore because of the way in which Vallé stuck out his elbows while dancing at local fandangos.  However at least one historian avers that Vallé’s given name was Alexander Pigeon.  Whatever the owner’s surname, the hostelry was the largest and most convenient stop on the trail between Las Vegas (New Mexico) and Santa Fe, housing up to forty people and several hundred animals.
The easternmost of the three hostels belonged to Martin Kozlowski.   Born in Warsaw, he became a refugee from the wars with Germany at the age of twenty-one and moved to England where he married. By 1853 he and possibly his wife were in America where he enlisted in the 1st Dragoons who were stationed at Fort Union from 1851-1856.  Kozlowski mustered out in 1858 and settled down on 600 acres of land alongside a plentiful spring on the Santa Fe Trail and also began a business of catering to travelers – featuring a good meal prepared by his wife, often fresh trout from the Pecos River.  The hostelry, sometimes referred to as Gray's Ranch by the soldiers, was later expanded to encompass a stage station for the Barlow and Sanderson line.
According to the Legends of America website,  “Union troops came into contact with a Confederate force of 200-300 Texans under the command of Major Charles L. Pyron, who were encamped at Johnson’s Ranch, at one end of the pass. [Under orders from Colonel Slough] Union Major John M. Chivington led more than 400 soldiers on the morning of [March] 26th in an attack, capturing some Confederate advance troops before finding the main force behind them.  Chivington advanced on them, but their artillery fire threw him back. He regrouped, split his force to the two sides of the pass, caught the Rebels in crossfire, and soon forced them to retire.
“Pyron and his men retreated about a mile and a half to a narrow section of the pass and formed a defensive line before Chivington’s men appeared. The Union troops then flanked Pyron’s men again, firing heavily into their ranks. When the Confederates fled again, the Union cavalry charged, capturing the Confederate rearguard. Chivington then retired and went into camp at Kozlowski’s Ranch. No fighting occurred the next day [March 27] as reinforcements arrived for both sides. Lieutenant Colonel William R. Scurry’s troops swelled the Rebel ranks to about 1,100 while Union Colonel John P. Slough arrived with about 900 men.
“Both Slough and Scurry decided to attack early on March 28th. As Scurry advanced down the canyon, he saw the Union forces approaching, so he established a battle line, including his dismounted cavalry. Slough hit them before 11:00 am. The Confederates held their ground and then attacked and counterattacked throughout the afternoon. The fighting then ended as Slough retired first to Pigeon’s Ranch and then to Kozlowski’s Ranch.”
Scurry left the field believing that he had won the battle – which at that point he had.  However unbeknownst to him a detachment led by Major Chivington and guided through the unfamiliar Glorieta Pass terrain by Lt. Col. Manuel Chaves of the New Mexico volunteers secretly rappelled down a mountain overlooking Johnson’s Ranch wherein the remaining Confederate supplies and animals were sequestered. Chivington’s sharpshooters picked off most of the small number of guards.   Union forces then destroyed the entire storehouse of food and weapons (driving spikes into the touch holes of the cannon to prevent their further use), and ran off the horses and mules.
“Facing defeat and starvation, Sibley and his men began their retreat to Texas. They were pursued all of the way to Fort Craig by Canby’s troops, but, finally slipped from the Federals by a circuitous route. Nearly dead of thirst and starvation, 1,700 Confederate survivors eventually reached safety in El Paso, Texas on May 4th.”
Time and progress have replaced most of the battlefield with roads and thick pinyon juniper woods.  On our tour however we were still able to pull off the road at the keys points of the battle – Johnson’, Pigeon’s and Kozlowski’s Ranches – get a sense of the physical surroundings and be able to picture the action in spite of the noise and backdrafts of nearby semis, cars, and motorcycles.  We also walked part of the Glorieta Battlefield Trail, a 2.3 mile loop that brought us to “Artillery Hill” from where the Union directed fire on the third day of battle, and to a vantage point from which we could look down upon Pigeon’s Farm and “Sharpshooter’s Hill” where Slough established his battle headquarters from which he was driven when the Confederates attacked from the one direction the Union was not guarding, even though its was by far the easiest way up the mountain. 
Our tour ended at the site of Johnson’s Ranch – the site of Chivington’s  destruction of the Confederate supplies, equipment, and horses, which effectively ended southern combat activities in New Mexico.  By the end of July, 1862 all Confederate troops had left the territory, never to attempt a return visit.
Marsha and I moved to northern New Mexico from Wethersfield, Connecticut – a place from which most people retire to “The South” – North Carolina, Florida, etc.  One of the principal reasons for our choice, in addition to the lack of humidity and hurricanes, was the unique ambiance of Santa Fe.  Which, but for the unguarded Confederate supplies at Johnson’s Ranch, might not have been.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Spanish Colonial Drip Gardening

As newcomers, we have been told several times that in Santa Fe, , if you want to get something done you’ve probably got to know somebody who knows somebody.  And now we have learned that if you want to find out about the real dirt in town you absolutely, definitely need to know someone who knows someone.  And now we do.
While I am really enjoying experiencing new plants, grown in a new environment, in new ways – I have at the same time been missing the joy of gardening in real soil – something friable that I could run my fingers through, as opposed to the hardpan caliche that I can barely get my fork-tongued weed-digging tool into.  But now my dirt drought may be over.
El Rancho de las Golindrinas, the Living History Museum where Marsha and I are volunteering, has, of all things, a drip irrigation garden, which is located in one of the not-open-to-the-public parts of the 200 acre property along with a cold frame for starting seeds, and small fledgling “cider apple” tree orchard – two of which do not fit in at all well with the Spanish Colonial period being interpreted at the museum.
And it turns out that Marsha had a meeting with J, the Curator of Agriculture at las Golondrinas, to inventory what was growing the museum’s herb garden, which a group of us are trying to reestablish from its current semi-dormant condition.  And serendipitously  twelve rows in the drip garden needed to be hoed immediately for subsequent planting.
Las Golondrinas does not open until June so the grounds were empty of people as the three of us took the ten minute walk on the dirt trail behind the partially reconstructed 18th century Spanish Colonial adobe home in the Golondrinas Placita; past the 19th century Baca House; down the hill next to the Hide Tanning Area; across the Acequia Madre (aka “Mother Ditch”, which provides water to the historically maintained area and was running on one of the museum’s designated use days); turned left past the Carpenter Shop as we glanced at the deserted Las Milpas (“The Fields”, which later in the season would show traditional crops); and alongside the football field sized garden area – about one-third of which was currently being drip irrigated.

 After a quick tour of the cold frame and orchard – and a rapid run through of what I was to do, Marsha and J headed up to the mid-1800 Sierra Village – fifteen minutes away and the site of the herb garden – to catalogue what was coming to life in that plot. While I set to work on digging up the earth and thinning out the weeds and such that had taken root in the area alongside each side of the drip tubes.
My weapons du jour (actually “del día”) were (1) an old slightly rusted (but probably not Spanish Colonial) long hoe whose blade had one hole in each side – a type of implement known, according to my after the fact Internet searches, as a mortar hoe (“the 2 holes situated in the blade enable you to efficiently mix cement before leveling it”)  – (2) plus the basic plastic lawn rake that everyone in our old suburban Connecticut town had at least two of.  The drill was to weed out the bad guys and rake them into little piles, which would then be picked up by an unidentified person.
As it has been just about every day since we moved out here one year ago it was a cloudless, sunny day – with a slight breeze that gusted uncomfortably several times while I was working.  And I was alone, which I became fully aware of about five minutes into my project when the aforementioned wind tried to wrest my straw hat from my head and, as I grabbed the top to prevent its flight, glanced up to see nothing but dry land, green Cottonwood trees, and the orchard. I was wearing a black short sleeve tee shirt, chino cargo pants, running shoes, and a Silver Creek Golf Course straw hat.   But I could easily imagine looking down from above and seeing a tall, thin, breeches-clad, linen-shirted, solitary 18th century gardener toiling away in his fields with his rusted weeding tool.

 Sixty minutes later, just as I was wishing the Angels would come and help me with my work as, according to the hagiography, they had for Saint Isidore the patronsaint of farmers, Marsha and J appeared on the horizon – not to take over my workload so that I could spend more time at church, but to tell me it was time to head back home.
On our way back to the hill we noticed a man with his shovel directing the waters from the acequia into the furrowed rows of Las Milpas – also contemporaneously clothed – also a Spanish Colonial garden worker in spirit.