Riparian restoration area at Placitas Elementary
Las Huertas Watershed Project underway
Mark your calendars for two events to be held on Saturday, September 10, beginning at 9:00 a.m. First, view on-the-ground riparian-restoration efforts the kindergarten through second graders have made. Then spend your morning in the upper Las Huertas Creek area viewing the changing colors and onset of autumn—and clean up this beautiful area.
Meet at the Las Placitas Community Center at 9:00 a.m. We will walk to the nearby restoration site at Placitas Elementary, then carpool to the Las Huertas Creek picnic grounds and surrounding areas for a post-Labor Day Las Huertas Creek cleanup. The Alpha Optimists (fourth through sixth graders) will be on hand with their families to assist.
Join your community for a morning of watershed education and stewardship, and fresh mountain air!
More details to come in the September Signpost, or see www.lasplacitas.org, for more information. Refreshments will be provided by Las Placitas Association.
Los Alamos National Lab gets clean bill of health
After reviewing data recorded from 1980 through 2001, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry determined that no harmful exposures to chemical or radioactive contaminants from Los Alamos National Laboratory site in Los Alamos, New Mexico, are occurring now. Nor are current conditions expected to cause illness in the future, the report says.
Regarding specific ways people may be exposed, ATSDR finds: 1) Community and LANL groundwater supplies do not contain contaminants at levels that will make people sick. Because community and LANL water contains elevated sodium levels, ATSDR recommends people on low-sodium diets consult their health-care providers for advice on monitoring sodium intake.
2) Exposure to surface soil, including accidentally swallowing soil, is not expected to make people sick.
3) Recreational activities of hikers, hunters, and bikers in the canyons surrounding LANL may expose them to surface-water and sediment contaminants, but this exposure is not expected to result in adverse health effects.
4) Monitoring for airborne contaminants on site, along the LANL perimeter, and at regional air-monitoring stations detected no contaminants at levels of health concern.
5) Based on plant and animal sampling data from 1980-2001, scientific literature reviews, and health-protective exposure estimates, ATSDR concludes consumption of locally grown and locally harvested foods is not expected to cause illness.
The ATSDR public health assessment is available for public review and comment through August 8, 2005.
Public inquiries may be made at 888-422-8737 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
LPA to host tour of Diamond Tail
Las Placitas Association is hosting a hike on August 13 at the Diamond Tail Ranch. The purpose of the hike is twofold.
Diamond Tail has done a great deal of work managing storm-water runoff on their property to reduce the scouring effects of our heavy monsoon rains. As a home owner or renter, you can apply their simple techniques on your property to increase water infiltration into the ground and thereby reduce erosive storm-water runoff while improving your own environment.
The second purpose is a tour of the ghost town of Tejon for a glimpse at our region's past.
Wear hiking shoes and bring water and a snack.
The tour begins at the Diamond Tail Ranch at 8:30 a.m. Directions are: East on Highway 165 for about seven miles to Placitas Village. Just east of mile marker seven, after passing through the village, turn north on Tecolote Road. Follow the double line to the Diamond Tail Ranch Community sign. Follow the single line up the hill. Park on the street where it ends at a steel gate (Lot 46).
Eating wild: celebrating New Mexico’s native foods
—Jesse Wolf Hardin
We know that New Mexico is home to a number of quality whole-food markets, as well as some of the finest eateries in the entire country. What we may not have noticed are the diverse native Southwestern foods often found growing at the base of the stately adobe walls, or concealed among the exotic grasses that border the parking lot.
Re-wilding our flower beds and bursting up through the cracks in the sidewalks are delicious salad fixin’s like dandelion and dock. And on the way to buy our organic produce we likely walk or drive past examples of the diverse indigenous gourds, grains, and greens that the ancient Pueblo peoples sought. Collecting a portion of one’s dinner from nearby mountain meadows or neighborhood yards, we gather not only sustenance but taste and tradition; we gather up our thoughts and spirits, memories, and moments.
Common to the Sandoval Country area are wild celery greens, which are delicious steamed with onion, plantain leaves for frying, and the prolific quelites (lamb’s-quarters) that can be dried in the summer and reconstituted in soups and sauces the rest of the year.
A prime source of information are the elders of any region, particularly in the Hispanic community, where familiarity with the land and passion for fine foods have helped keep the tradition of gathering alive. There are also a number of good books on edible plant identification, and there are workshops such as ours that teach hands-on collection and gourmet preparation.
One of the benefits of eating wild, after all, may be the amazing flavors. Watercress is a tasty plant high in vitamin B and iron and popular with health-minded buyers which is found in many of the less-impacted creeks and rivers. We also have wild grape, whose leaves are great whether cooked or raw. Taking a hint from the Mediterranean cookbooks, we love to stuff them with steaming yummies for bite-size dinner treats.
Loba is not only a competent chef but one of those special sensualists who revels in endless new combinations of ingredients, and of these combinations she may love her wild-food feasts the best. Every year she cooks and preserves the bounty of our isolated river canyon: red and sweet clover, high-protein amaranth and dandy dock, beeplant and magic mint, yucca flowers for stir-fries, and prickly pear fruits for syrup and jam. Puffballs, boletes, and shaggymane mushrooms. Tomatillos, mustard seeds. Black walnuts and juniper berries. Imagine if you will pesto with wild oregano, clover, or mint leaves. Suckerfish sushi and hearty crawdad stew. She makes hand-decorated jars of pickled purslane. Wild-grape-jelly crepes. Prickly-pear buttermilk pie and yucca-fruit crisp. Browned piñon cookies. Garlicky beeplant ravioli with local goat cheese in the early fall. Stir-fried stinging nettles and crisp salads of wild watercress, both picked in midwinter. And fresh out of the stove some early morn in July—a wild-mulberry pie!
Any indigenous person would tell us how eating wild is like taking into ourselves the energy and power of the land itself—the tendencies and sensitivities, capacities, and qualities of wildness.
I’ve seen how every little bit that we’re able to subsist off the land increases our confidence in ourselves and our ability to survive. And even in the best of times we can eat not only cheaper but better by adding foods we’ve gathered to the ingredients we buy. We soon figure out which months to harvest which foods, and when to collect their seeds to help disperse or plant. We learn to recognize the soil and moisture requirements of the various species, and how much sun and shade each needs. We also notice when human activities have degraded those conditions, and may feel moved to do our part to protect, tend, or restore the remaining habitat.
The wonderful flavors of the wild call out to us, invite our participation in their native dance of delight. We might consider this as we’re driving past what appear to be indiscernible patches of roadside greenery, or while walking by those curly leafed plants lining the local acequia. Coming to know the edible native foods of any region is to become more intimate and familiar with the land, its seasons, its song. There is perhaps no tastier way for us to come to know ourselves ... or to know we belong.
Jesse Wolf Hardin is an acclaimed author and cohost of the Wildfoods Weekend in the Gila Mountains, August 19-21 (Box 820, Reserve, NM 87830; email@example.com).
Learn about the trees of our area
The Sandoval County Master Gardeners presents “Trees For Our Specific Area,” part of the ongoing Gardening with the Masters lecture series, on August 1. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. The lecture will be held from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Esther Bone Memorial Library, 950 Pinetree Road, next to the post office in Rio Rancho.
For more information, call the Sandoval County Extension Office, 867-2582.
Free training for participation in New Mexico Climate Initiative
A free training session for effective citizen participation in Governor Richardson's New Mexico Climate Initiative will be offered on Saturday, July 30, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., at the First United Methodist Church, 314 Lead SW, in Albuquerque. The training is sponsored by the NM Conference of Churches, NM Interfaith Power and Light, and the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.
On June 9 Governor Richardson initiated a bold program to act on the climate crisis, saying, "A group of national science academies from various nations including Brazil, China, India, Japan, Russia, and the United States has confirmed the science of global warming and climate change. Those groups agree that we must work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and if we don't act soon, the potential consequences could be devastating—from sea level change, to drought, to weather disasters. Without action at the federal level, states like New Mexico have a responsibility to address this important issue."
The Governor's executive order creates the New Mexico Climate Change Advisory Group, with broad industry and environmental representation, and directs the group to find ways to reduce New Mexico's total greenhouse-gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2012, 10 percent below those levels by 2020, and 75 percent below 2000 levels by 2050. These goals are among the most aggressive in the nation.
Setting target reductions in carbon and forming NMCCAG is a great step forward. We can help. All meetings are open to the public, which can participate through comment and testimony as well as participation in work groups that will feed recommendations into the NMCCAG. While supporting short-term solutions, we need also to consistently and deliberately keep the focus on evaluating options that go beyond short term and toward the 2050 "75 percent solution." This is particularly important because 75 percent reduction levels are generally accepted by scientists as necessary to stabilize and prevent irreversible climate disaster.