Two Days in Santa Fe

I am sitting in a coffee shop on the Plaza enjoying a delicious brew in a corner booth overlooking the frost covered buildings and the vast sky that promises warmer weather today.

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I read a study that compared the frequencies of people and places and how we thrive best when matched with our own similar frequency level regarding people and lands.  According to the study, if you were to close your eyes and someone placed a stone from a place that you love in one hand and a stone from a place you do not like, you would notice the difference.  This place matches my frequency.  Whether crossing the Santa Fe Plaza or eating red chile in Socorro or driving though farm land or artist towns, this is my place.  One day…

I adore the architecture and the history here.  The traditional adobe with straw sticking through its ancient walls.  The oldest house in the United States is here and was built in 1598.  Down a small street next to San Miguel church (circa 1636) is the house and free museum.  I loved seeing the tortilla press (not too different than mine) and the stone used for grinding corn into meal (a bit different than my Vitamix) and the other items of the era.

There is a distinctive look to New Mexico.  It is all about the details here.  Punched tin, kivas, adobe, bright trim, murals, and vigas create textures, history, and art in the architecture and design here.

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We brought our granddaughter’s stuffed animal with us and have been capturing moments with it to the delight of Maryjane.

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Now I have seen the fake stuffed animal heads mounted on boards.  They are cheeky and kind of funny from a vegetarian perspective.  In fact, I have long had a stuffed moose head we named Moosletoe hanging in our living room.  One is funny; more than that might be over the top.  However, when I saw this rooster head I started giggling so much that the cashier started giggling, than Doug joined in, and the contagious laughter prompted his coming home with me.  He is hilarious.  Perhaps he will inspire my rooster, Bob, to behave himself.

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Amazing how ten days flies when on vacation.  Thanks for coming along with me, we’ll see you back at the farm!

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Gone Vintage and the El Rancho Hotel

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There is nothing like the excitement of going on holiday.  I love the lists of things to remember and dreaming of places to come.  My friend, Mindy gave me one of these suitcases and the other I inherited from my Grandma.  To me, they represent the golden era of travel with sleek, hard covers, ready to take on the world.  Since we are taking a road trip, the cases fit nicely in Fernando the Fiat.  The beautiful landscape of New Mexico flies by the window.  Clouds that seem painted on the flat, domed sky.  Red rocks and Creator-made walls of horizontal color schemes.  Breathtaking country.

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Just under ten hours into our trip, down the historic Route 66, we arrived at El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico.  It was such a pleasant surprise.  You don’t always know what you are booking on the internet and this place is just too fun.  Dozens and dozens of old, autographed head shots and photographs from movies being filmed here line the walls.  Some of my favorites.  Some of the greats, Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Doris Day, Humphrey Bogart.

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The hotel is still like it was in 1936.  A historical beacon carefully crafted to impress the Hollywood set of the era.  The décor is rugged southwest.  Stone and Pendleton and wood.

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We waited in the elevator for the attendant.  The original elevator takes some skill to travel exactly to the correct floor.

 

Memorabilia of a bustling time remain set around the lobby.  A player piano, a place to get your shoes shined, a cigarette machine, and stamps at a fraction of the current rate.

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My vintage looking hat cocked to the side and my beloved old turquoise pleases me as I stand atop the curved wood staircase with red carpet or sit in the lobby with a cocktail imagining the comings and goings of the movie elite and the glamorous upper set with suitcases and sunglasses and perfect 1940’s hair.  A cigarette confidently smoking between fingers and laughter and parties.  I would have loved to have seen it.

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There is rich history in this state that I love and there is more where we are going.  Today we head off to Arizona.

(El Rancho Hotel and Motel, 1000 East Highway 66, Gallup, New Mexico)

 

 

Birthday Travels Through the Southwest (and the year of learning and adventure)

As adults we don’t seem to celebrate birthdays with the same festivity as when we were children, but I think all birthdays are incredibly special.  Having lost many friends at a young age, I know that each birthday is a great time to reevaluate, reground, regroup, and to be filled with gratitude.  Each lesson leading into another great discovery and memories fill the spaces in our days and lives with those we love and experiences to treasure.

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Last year was my year of bravery.  I shaved off all of my hair for my birthday.  It was freeing and light and was like the world’s burdens had been lifted off of my shoulders.  Now of course I am trying to grow out with some semblance of normalcy!

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My birthday is Sunday.  This year is my year of adventure and learning.  My farm is ready to really increase food production with experiments, new gardens, and my greenhouse.  I am registered for school in the fall.  But before everything gets really amped up, we are going on a ten day trip through New Mexico and Arizona.

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We will be staying with our dear, dear friends, Monte and Erik, whom we haven’t seen since they moved away over three years ago.  My friend from high school (26 years since I have seen her) is down there, as is one of Doug’s (30 years), and my wonderful Great-Aunt Lila.  I have never been to Arizona and I am excited to see the land and the people.  There are restaurants, parks, and museums to discover!  Sun to soak up!  Glasses of wine to clink with dear ones.  The overnights to and from Arizona in New Mexico I look forward to and always savor.  Chimayo is calling me.  So, for the next ten days I will be reporting to you from the fabulous Southwest with inspirations, ideas, and life.

 

 

 

Making Your Own Chili Powder and Cornmeal (from seed to plant to pantry)

Drying staples is a way to preserve the harvest and has been done, presumably, since the beginning of time.  Come autumn, at just about the moment that I think I cannot possibly water one more plant or can one more thing, frost is at the doorstep.  I gather in baskets the remaining produce and carry it to the still-warm kitchen.  There will be peppers.  And there will be corn that I purposely left too long on the stalk.

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The corn came in a humble seed package at the farmer’s market.  Aztec blue corn.  I love crowing Indian corn and usually it is for popcorn, but this one is specifically for, essentially, growing blue corn meal.  I pulled the husks over their heads, removed most of the silk, and hung them up to dry on a hook in the kitchen.

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If you have been following me for any number of years y’all know that my heart belongs to New Mexico.  The terroir is so familiar to me that I can identify a New Mexican wine or chile in a blind taste test.  My friend brought me back two large ristras from Taos, New Mexico to adorn our front porch when we first moved in.

I learned that the winds out here are fierce in the spring and Mother Nature likes to trim trees and clear out debris (like lawn chairs and stuff).  She got a hold of my ristras and shook ’em like nobody’s business.  Now, I have had a notoriously difficult time of growing peppers over the years.  But there in my paths, window boxes, and in rogue spots of the garden amongst herbs and zucchini were thriving pepper plants that she had planted from seed.  “Show off,” I muttered under my breath.  I sit there tending to each seed with exact care, squinting to read the backs of seed packets, and still failing and there goes Mother Earth, flinging seeds into the barren soil seven weeks before the last frost and coming out with amazing results.  I could learn a thing or two from her.

But then happy day, I am growing New Mexican chilies!  It turns out that this very spot of land that I reside on is nearly exactly like the land in New Mexico.  The same altitude, the same soil, the same elements of the places there I love.  Not like the farmlands just east of me, nor like the dusty plains west of me.  Right here, I have a little New Mexico-in-Colorado oasis.

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I am getting better at growing peppers and last year I brought in quite a few.  Last year was not a good growing year though.  In the spring the temperatures rose to a hundred degrees and hovered there straight through till frost.  The inconsistent watering didn’t help, and I got some kind of rot on the bottom of the peppers.  But I still managed to save some.  They sat on my cutting board on the kitchen counter up until yesterday.  They had all turned a lovely, passionate red and were dry.  Once chilies are dried, they lose that volatile oil that burns the heck out of your skin when you touch them, but still take care not to get the chili powder in your face or under your nails.

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Chop off the very top stem and using a sharp paring knife pull out the seeds.  Keep these because we are planting them in a few months!

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Throw the chilies in a food processor, coffee grinder, or other grinding mechanism.  I used the grain pitcher with my Vitamix.  I like my chili powder nice and fine.

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Normally I keep the New Mexican chile separate from the others but some of them had rotted so I didn’t have a lot.  I blended the Pueblo chilies with poblanos and the red chilies from New Mexico.  The taste is spectacular.  Hints of tomato and earth, smoky, not too hot, and better because it was from my own garden.  I sprinkle it on potatoes and everything else under the sun.

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As for the corn, use your fingernail to easily dislodge each kernel, taking care not to pull too much chaff in with it.  I put the seeds in a strainer with bigger holes.  As you shake, blow gently on the kernels and the chaff will blow out.  Place corn in blender or food processor and grind to a fine powder.  That earthy, corn flavor is great.  I used it in my pizza crust last night blended with regular flour.  Save one ear for planting this year!

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Growing, harvesting, drying, grinding, cooking with, saving seeds, planting- all these beautiful, ancient practices connect us with our ancestors and help us feel connected to the earth and our food.  Soon we will be in the garden again!

Have Dog, Will Travel

20171209_105230We spent the weekend in Taos with this fine fellow, who at three and a half months of age looks to be a small polar bear.  He was very popular.  Gandalf particularly loved it the last day we were there after we realized the shops were all dog friendly and he didn’t need his vest.  If he doesn’t have his vest on he gets a lot more cuddling.  That is what Gandalf does best.

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To register your pup as an emotion support dog simply go to a site like ESAregistration.org and sign them up, pay for the vest, and you can then bring your trusted friend around with you.  There are no requirements, no questions; simply upload a photo of your dog and who the handler is.  No one has ever questioned us and by law they can’t keep us from entering an establishment.  Gandalf may not be a seeing eye dog but he has his own work, spreading happiness to all he meets!

Taos was in all its holiday glory with the lights and bonfires in place.  The shops were dressed festive and the luminarias were lined across the rooftops and along the paths.  There is just something about New Mexico for me.  I cross the state line (now only two hours away) and I am in my own place of inspiration and peace.  As if the vibration of the rocks and trees and sagebrush match the frequency of my blood.  One day I will be there to stay.  But I am where I am supposed to be right now and a weekend away was good for the soul.

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It was a great opportunity to train Gandalf and he was worn out by the end of our trip.  He was a really good boy, except once!  I let him off the leash because we were about to play ball so he usually keeps his eye on the bright orange tennis ball but then something else caught his eye.  A giant tarp.  That covered the out of season swimming pool!  He ran onto it, like a giant trampoline he raced from one end to the other, his ears back, a big goofy smile on his face, until finally, two heart attacks later, Doug was able to yank him off the side.  No harm done, and hilarious to recall, but not so funny as I stopped breathing praying the tarp would hold that giant puppy!

Here are a few tips for traveling with your dog.

Get an emotional support dog registration or wait until summer when patios are open at restaurants.

Even with the vest, try to find a hotel that already accepts dogs.  (I highly recommend Blue Sky Resort if you are heading to Taos.)

We drove our mini-van so we could lay his bed out, food and water, and toys.  It was much easier to drive around with him!

Carry a baby bag with a bag of food, a quart of water, some treats, a toy, a few washrags, and a few plastic bowls.

Purchase a harness. When training my granddog (a crazy border collie/heeler) and now with my Great Pyrenees, a harness is a life saver!  They can’t pull, you have the leverage, and they know they have to be good kids once you put it on them!

Reward sitting, laying down, and any other good behavior with small treats.

Don’t get stressed out.  Just have fun with your companion!

20171208_131142Even small dogs can be Emotional Support Dogs.  Some dogs were not meant to hang out at home all the time.  Without company and things to do behavior problems arise.  And if you are going to have a puppy, may as well make him a friend and travel companion.  I am glad we decided to get dog!

Note: I must say that I am surprised at the number of nasty remarks I receive about this post (and mind you they will never see the light of day).  I want to make it quite clear that I still stand behind this post.  Did you know that a fully trained, recognized service dog will run between $25,000-$50,000?  There are many people that I know, from wheelchair bound to post-war PTSD, that need a service dog.  Having an emotional support dog is very valuable to many people.  My puppy is now over a year old, over a hundred pounds, and barks all the time, so he isn’t going with me anywhere more than the bank or dog park.  But he really helped me deal with fear and anxiety and if someone needs a support dog, then they should have one.  End of story.   

Farmgirl’s Pueblo Green Chile

20170926_153841I lift the spoon from the crockpot to taste and the aroma instantly transports me.  I close my eyes and I am in the plaza of Santa Fe.  I reopen them and I am in my kitchen in Pueblo.

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Here in Pueblo, Colorado they take their chilies as seriously as New Mexicans.  I am growing New Mexican red chilies in my gardens but to say that I prefer them would be fightin’ words in these parts.  I picked up Pueblo chili seeds for next year!

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The climate here is very similar to New Mexico and chilies grow great.  The Pueblo Chili Festival is taken as seriously as the State Fair.  Doug and I went and checked it out, took in the aromas of roasting chilies, and the many, many booths of salsas, ristras, and beans.  We brought home a basket of chilies, onions, garlic, and a big bag of local pinto beans.

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And then I made the best green chili of my life.  Here is the recipe!

Farmgirl’s Pueblo Green Chili

You will need 8 chilies.  I used 5 (supposedly) mild green chilies, 2 poblano, and 1 sweet pepper.  You can roast on the grill, in the oven, or on a gas stove top.  Use tongs to blacken the skin all around and then immediately place in a freezer bag.  The steam loosens the skin.

Brown half a pound of stew meat, cut up smaller, dredged in 3/4 of a cup of masa mixed with a little salt and pepper, in a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Put in crockpot.

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In same pan sauté with a little more oil 1/2 an onion.  Add to crockpot.

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Mince 6 cloves of garlic.

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To prepare chilies, scrape skin off with the side of a knife.  Slice open and remove seeds.  Cut up chilies.

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Add all to crockpot with 2 cups of diced, peeled tomatoes with juice (I was tired by then so I just opened one of the jars I already canned).

Add 3 cups of broth (I used my homemade corn and red chili broth)

1 T salt

1 ts pepper

2 ts oregano

1 ts cumin

Add 1/2 cup of beans.

Pour in rest of masa used for dredging.

Cook on low for 8 hours.  Sneak a taste every so often because it is so good.

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A cold beer and goat cheese cooled the heat from the chilies.  Fritos made it a little closer to Frito pie from New Mexico.  If you close your eyes you will find yourself basking in the sun in the plaza of Sant….um, I mean Pueblo!

The Front Porch

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Look what my friend, Alvin, brought me from New Mexico!  The porch is the welcoming committee of the home.  If it is cluttered with junk and trash, it will set the stage for what one would find in the home.  If it is plain and empty, it does not feel very welcoming.

My grandmother’s porch was the ideal porch to me.  When we would drive to her house I would look for the goose.  She had a goose planter on the railing that differentiated grandma and grandpa’s house from all the rest.  A trellis on the south side of the porch held bundles of bright trumpet vine and the porch swing tucked beneath was a sanctuary, a corner of enchantment.

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This is just the beginning  of our porch.  The ristras set the stage for the home.  My great love of the southwest, the brightly colored peppers show there is life and joy in the home.  A few chairs grace the porch now, but a trellis of trumpet vine and a swing will be added this spring.  A cool place to hide away with a book or a glass of sweet tea is an important aspect of any good front porch.

The Dance

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I can’t tell you how wonderful this conference is so far.  I am enjoying the beautiful mountain air and the many classes.  The classes on practical uses and materia medicas have been filled with mostly with information I already know but there is an amazing shamanic and spiritual use of herbs being taught and a charisma among the herbalists and healers that is truly healing and a balm to the spirit.  My spirit was broken the past few months.

When I get back I will start setting up my new shop in Elizabeth by the post office.  A friend of ours invited us to rent his walkout basement in Elizabeth.  He is a respected Native elder and I will learn much from him.  To stand on his land is to be totally immersed in wild medicinal plants.  A secret place.

The next half of my life will be a little wilder.  A few less decorating books and dinner parties and more walking in pine needles and watching birds.  Wild herbalism in my shop.  Something to meet the needs of every single person that walks in.  Powerful plant medicines and natural healing.  More quiet, less bills, more mindful, more learning, less stress, more herbs, less interference.

Now, my friends, I must don my owl wings and head to the Fairy Masquerade Ball.  Margie is less than excited but I can’t wait to dance.

And I’ll continue dancing…

Herb Conference, Owl Wings, and Store Fronts

Things are getting exciting around here now, Friends.  And word of our adventures is buzzing around town already.  Doug was stopped several times yesterday to find out about where we are going to live and about the store.  One couple stopped him at the grocery store and told him it was a good thing we didn’t buy that little house last week.  They live next door to it and the roof is about to collapse and the house is filled with asbestos!  Wow, close call there!  I will tell you next week where we are going to live.

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In the meantime, I am taking you on a field trip.  We are heading to Cloudcroft, New Mexico for the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference tomorrow through Sunday.  I have applied to teach at this conference next year, but this year Margie and I are going to drive eight hours to the top of a mountain in my favorite state to learn all we can.  Some of the classes we are both interested in, such as Tree Medicine ,and Wound Management in the Field and at Home.  Some of them we differ on.  She’ll be taking Plant Saponins while I take an hour and a half herb walk through the desert.  There will be so many people to meet, and so much to listen to, and the scenery will likely breathe life back into me.  Doug starts his job today so he won’t be joining us.  I’ll miss him at the dance.  There is a Fairy Masquerade Ball and my friend made me wings for it!  Aren’t they amazing?

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This morning Margie and I are heading to a store front that I have had my eye on for five years but always thought it would be too expensive.  It is not.  It is in my price range, it is a great location in Elizabeth, and it is among friends.

So much going on but four days of mountain air and herbs will be just what I need to start moving full speed ahead when I get back.  Anyways, if you want to go to New Mexico with me, I’ll see you here Friday morning.  Margie and I leave at 3:30 am tomorrow!

Journey to Our First Farm-A Love Story (Part 2)

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We loaded the children up the first week of December in 2009 to find adventure and a new life in New Mexico.  I had already scouted out a few rentals in charming adobes for us and we were going to stay a week near the plaza in Santa Fe.  A week of rejuvenation is just what we needed.

As the snow fell softly outside the window, we sat in front of the kiva with its fire burning brightly and made a plan.  For me it involved a farm, a new life as an herbalist, and happy children living and playing in the land that we love.  For Doug, it was an effort to keep from crying or withdrawing.  He was still reeling from his final straw at the office.  Should he put his two weeks notice in?  Are they going to fire him?  What are we going to do?  He stressed and fought within himself the entire trip.  We weren’t sure if we could make it solely as herbalists.

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We had just completed our first summer of farmer’s markets on the weekends just for fun.  We had a small line of products that we had made and that worked for our family.  We didn’t expect them to take off the way they did and be so accepted at the Parker and Lone Tree Farmer’s markets.  It gave us hope.  Still, we didn’t have a huge clientele. (Partially because we forgot to put our phone number on the labels that first year!)  We had fallen in love with the herbals though and wanted it to be more of our life.

It had began simply enough.  A book on natural beauty.  Which led to herbal gifts, a class held at the local nursery.  Which led to picking up a book there called 101 Herbs that Heal by Tammi Hartung.  Which led to, “What?! That heals what?”  And the mission was on to learn everything I could about herbs.  Doug followed along.  He enjoyed the farmer’s markets and that we were helping people.  He learned through me.  I got a certification as an herbalist to offer some credibility to customers the year before.  We had a new career.  But one that really only made $200 a month outside of markets.

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Then the door closed.  On New Mexico anyway.  We received an email stating that there was a rather long waiting list for herbalists to get into the markets.  I wasn’t unique there.  I tried then to get my dance company into their schools as I had done in Douglas County.  Someone had beat me to it.  Then the clincher.  No one would return my calls about the rentals.  Not a single one.  We loaded the kids back up and headed back to our home we were about to lose.

“How about Elizabeth?” Doug asked.

“Elizabeth?” I responded.  (That’s not even close to New Mexico.) “Why there?”

Doug had grown up going to and working at a summer camp in Elbert (not far from Elizabeth) and had fond memories of the whole area.  It was only thirty minutes from where we currently lived and secretly he had not wanted to move so far away.

I was thumbing through a newspaper, actually looking for a job, when I came across an advertisement for a house in Elizabeth.  Four bedrooms, 2 baths, on a quarter acre.  I called.

I said kind of snottily, “Is your house still for rent?  I have nine cats.”

“Oh good, I love cats.  Yes, when can you move in?”….