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.

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