Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Placitas Community Library, after

Placitas Community Library, November, 2009

Placitas Community Librrary, before

Placitas Community Library, May, 2010

water feature

Placitas Community Library’s new water feature

Beautifying our library

—William W. Dunmire, Chair, Landscaping Committee
It was quite a day back in May when our brand new Placitas Community Library enjoyed its Grand Opening. In advance of the event, the library's Landscaping Committee had scrambled to insure that the library grounds would be something more than an acre of raw soil and rocks.

In fact, the committee had developed a vision for a landscape that would complement the purpose of the library with a garden of plants native to New Mexico and would deliver an educational message about conserving soil and water as well as the benefits of xeriscaping with natives. Just in time for the Grand Opening, eighteen small to medium-sized trees, thirty shrubs, and countless wildflowers - all native - were in the ground along with an automated drip system provided under contract. In addition, High Country Gardens had installed a magnificent demonstration garden in front of the library —their gift to Placitas. Two bare expanses were seeded with native grasses a month later. Then in October our volunteers added forty more shrubs and wildflowers from the State Nursery in Las Lunas.

A roof-water harvesting tank that will pipe water to a rock-lined water feature powered by a solar pump was installed this past month. This feature will serve as a bird and wildlife drinker and will enable the library garden to be designated as a Certified Wildlife Habitat next spring.

The latest project is to create a dozen interpretive panels that will be manufactured in fiberglass by the same firm that makes them for the national parks. The panels will identify specific plants and will educate patrons about the various native species. Eventually the library plans to put in some short gravel trails, the first of which is already in place.

None of this landscaping could have been accomplished without some generous contributions from a number of Placitans, since the original funds raised for the library were used up in its construction. Besides the demonstration plot donated by High Country Gardens and the many pounds of wildflower and native grass seed from Plants of the Southwest, the library was able to obtain three small grants - one from the New Mexico Native Plant Society and two from the Keep New Mexico Beautiful (KNMB) organization. KNMB was so pleased with the efforts that they presented the library with their 2010 Award of Excellence in the Native Plants and Wildflowers category.

Local Master Gardeners and other volunteers have helped with garden maintenance, and the six Landscaping Committee members (known as the "outsiders” as opposed to the wonderful group of inside-library volunteers) have contributed countless hours of their time.

A mix of produce planted specifically for Casa Rosa in spring 2010.

Plant and grow “giddy”

—Betsy Model for the Signpost

It's February, and for many local residents, thoughts are turning to the giddy romance of Valentine's Day and the giddy anticipation of spring, heralded by the pile of garden seed catalogs filling the mailbox.

Can two little unrelated giddys make a really big and meaningful giddy? Yep, especially if your Valentine mushiness and sense of "Aren't I lucky?" can morph into including your community.

Over the last year or two, a number of local gardeners and hobby farmers have contacted Placitas' Casa Rosa Food Bank, asking if the surplus from their late summer harvest of zucchini or peppers was of interest to others in the community who might be lacking fresh produce in their households. 

Others, witnessing folks volunteering at the Jubilee Garden located opposite the food bank, wanted to know more about what fruits and vegetables were being planted in the garden and would periodically come by to monitor the produce as it matured. 

Some snapped pictures of everything from the traditional acequia water release to the harvest of the fruits and vegetables to send to family members located elsewhere in the country. The pictures were visual bragging rights, as it were, to the benefits of living in a closely-knit, sufficient, sustainable, and rural community.

The best part was that many folks who visited the garden were inspired to want to plant their own edible gardens this year, and here's where we're hoping all that giddiness can be, uh, sown, nurtured, and reaped.

As you contemplate the printed or online seed catalogs this month filled with glossy images of heirloom tomatoes and the latest variety of lettuce or squash, consider buying an extra packet of seeds in honor of your community and then... plant a row.

There are two formal organizations in North America that encourage communities, garden clubs, and individual gardeners to plant a little extra to support their local food bank. Plant a Row for the Hungry—with the simple slogan of "Plant a Row"—was initially created by the Garden Writers Association to encourage produce donations to food banks.  Grow a Row—a similar program started in Canada for the same purpose—partnered with Plant a Row to spread the word. And, hopefully, spread the bounty.

Because Casa Rosa, like most food banks, can only purchase the surplus produce that's been provided in bulk to the central warehouses, choices are often limited to one or two fresh produce types each purchase cycle.

Local community gardeners who choose to "plant a row" dedicated to Casa Rosa are supplementing those produce choices and creating more—more nutrition, more food variety, and a more healthful community—with the simple planting of a few more seeds.

For those who fear the very word "row" because it implies a serious garden with serious commitment, consider a single pot! A single, mid-sized clay or ceramic garden pot planted with a nonspreading plant like cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, or bell peppers can produce pounds of fresh produce in a single container. Assuming you've already got a container to plant in, a single seed packet (with an average cost of one to two dollars) can, for that tiny investment, fill a half-dozen pots with productive plants that can yield nutrition for both your family and the greater community. 

Planting a row—or a pot—that's dedicated to the community is a great activity for children, and the sense of achievement that comes from a gardener of any age delivering that first bag of produce to their local food bank is indescribably satisfying.

Who says you can't plant and grow "giddy"?

More information about the Plant a Row program can be found at More information about Casa Rosa Food Bank can be found at, or contact us at

Sandoval County Rail Runner Stations to offer “preferred” carpool parking — and generate solar electricity
Starting in late January, Rail Runner customers carpooling to the Sandoval County / US 550 Rail Runner station will be rewarded with covered parking. The spaces are located closest to the platform and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Eight spaces are being dedicated to vehicles with two or more adults. As demand increases, up to 20 spaces could be dedicated for carpool parking. A similar program for the Belen Rail Runner station is expected to come online next month.

 “This is a nice reward for current carpooling customers, as well as encouragement for new carpooling customers”, says Dewey Cave, Executive Director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments. “Parking lots are already near capacity, so this will help maximize the current number of parking spaces we have.”

The advantages of carpooling include reducing gasoline costs and vehicle depreciation, freeing up a vehicle for another driver in the household, and reduces stress. Carpooling also benefits the environment by reducing traffic congestion and conserving fuel.

Additionally, photovoltaic modules have been mounted on the shade structures that will generate 85% of electricity needs of these stations. The systems use Schott Solar panels, manufactured in Albuquerque, and were installed by Santa Fe-based company Positive Energy. Information on the carpool parking policy – including an online ride finder program -and the energy production of the photovoltaic system can be found at

The initiatives at the stations are being funded by a $438,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the State of New Mexico’s Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. The Rio Metro Regional Transit District is also contributing funds to the project.

For more information on train schedules and fares, visit or call 1-866-795-RAIL.

Lower Farm

Photograph of Lower Farm, Placitas, by Roberta Price who comments, "Placitas was the southern point of our commune explorations in the summer of 1969 and again in the early winter of 1970, and though we spent a short time there, we caught a glimpse of the vibrant countercultural life at that time."

Placitas History Project: 1960s and 1970s heritage

—Tony Hull
The Placitas Community Library’s History Project is broadly documenting memories and images of our 1960s and 1970s heritage. To highlight this effort, the Library is sponsoring a free slideshow and book signing on Saturday, February 26 by author Roberta Price, who has recently finished her new illustrated book Across the Great Divide: A Photo Chronicle of the Counterculture (University of New Mexico Press).

Roberta, whose set of images has been collected by the Beinecke Library at Yale, seeks to set the record straight with her eyewitness account of the hope, optimism, and utopian promise that fueled that period. In 1969, as a teaching fellow in the SUNY at Buffalo graduate English program, Price received a grant to photograph communes in the Southwest. She headed west with her camera to the Huerfano Valley, eventually settling in Libre, a commune in Colorado, where she lived in voluntary poverty for seven years. During that time she took nearly 3,000 photographs, capturing long-haired men, women in self-made peasant attire, psychedelic art, sheaves of marijuana, cast-iron stoves, and pre-industrial agricultural practices. She is also author of Huérfano: A Memoir of Life in the Counterculture.

In addition to Roberta Price’s book reading and signing, the Placitas Library History Project will display, between February 7 and February 26, selected images representative of the hippie presence in Placitas during the 1960s and 1970s. This is a sampling of photographs gathered to date, displayed in part to share our excitement about this Project with our community, and in part to invite our community to participate more broadly in this Project. Over the next two years, we anticipate the Project’s collection efforts to result in substantial future thematic exhibits on this period. The Project continues to gather memories and materials as broadly and inclusively as possible. If you have stories, photographs or documents, or are simply interested in helping with documentation of this period, please contact Tony Hull (505 771 8566,

Resilient Placitas Event: Tooley’s Trees Workshop and Bitter Cherry saplings giveaway

Resilient Placitas (RP) invites you to our mid-winter double-feature orchard workshop at Anasazi Fields Farm just west of 83 Paseo de San Antonio Road in the Village of Las Placitas on a Sunday, February 20, 2011. A $10 donation is requested. From 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the Farm will host orchardist Gordon Tooley who assures us that "It's a good time at that date to cover pruning, plant health care, integrated pest control management and some holistic strategies." Bring pruning shears to practice and pen and paper for notes on tree maintenance, pest control and fruit tree varieties.

A May 2007 Local Flavor article by Barry Fields includes the following about Tooley, "He literally has a relationship with his plants. There aren't very many people that bring the level of excitement to heirloom trees and trees in general as he does. It's really a love affair for him and he passes it on to everyone he touches." Tooley Trees is a retail and wholesale nursery featuring drought tolerant varieties that can handle high pH soils, heirloom and uncommon varieties of grafted apples, apricots, plums, pears and cherries. Included in the various conifer and fruit trees he's grafted are 94 apple varieties. The nursery is located at an elevation of 7,960' along the high road between Santa Fe and Taos and is 100 miles driving distance from Placitas post office.

For our second feature, between 12:30 and 1:00 p.m., the Farm will give away 18"-24" saplings of a local variety of wild and very edible Bitter Cherry. That is, if you'll dig 'em up with your shovel, you can have 'em for transplanting to your place. Beforehand prepare 18" diameter and 18" deep holes at your place to plant the trees ASAP.

The Bitter Cherry is usually shrubby, reproducing by seed, also by sending out underground stems which then sprout above the surface to create a thicket.

Placitas' naturalist Bill Dunmire recounted to Anasazi Fields Winery vintner Jim Fish, "I keyed it out in 2001 at the UNM [University of New Mexico] Herbarium as Prunus emarginata var. emarginata. The specimen I collected on private land at 83 San Antonio Rd, Placitas, on 4/14/01 was deposited in the herbarium collection. According to Martin & Hutchins, A FLORA OF NEW MEXICO (1980), this variety of Bitter Cherry occurs on slopes, valleys, and along streams in northern to southcentral NM, 4,000-6,500'."

Reliable Resilient Placitas pickers of the 2010 wild cherry harvest assure readers and diggers-to-be of these Anasazi Fields Farm trees that their fruits will be small, a challenge to pit, sweet and most delicious in jams and pies.

So, bring a shovel, containers or old towels, plastic or burlap bags to the dig-'n-take-it-with-you. Our RP Contact is Vickie Peck at (505)-867-1588 or

Resilient Placitas is a working group of Las Placitas Association. One RP goal is networking for living well into a future of locally produced foods.

For more information visit our web address:


Just before holding this workshop at the Farm, Gordon Tooley will present at the New Mexico Organic Farming Conference at the Marriott Pyramid Hotel in Albuquerque February 18-19.  This is billed as the Southwest's Premier Conference for Organic Agriculture ( and Bernalillo County Open Space Fruit Tree Pruning and Plant Selection will be held on February 12 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Gutierrez-Hubble House, 6029 Isleta Blvd., SW, 3 miles south of Rio Bravo Blvd., Albuquerque (RSVP, 505-314-0398).

To contact Tooley Trees (, P.O. Box 392, Truchas, NM 87578, 505-689-2400)

All things lunar at the Placitas Community Library

A full moon rising over Placitas is a spectacular sight—one we all stop and watch because it is so majestic. What do we really know about that searchlight-like globe in the night sky? Is it made of cheese? Does a man live in it? Now is your chance to hear the current theories about the moon’s origins and about new discoveries made in just the past few years concerning this night-sky favorite. Charlie Christmann, a monthly contributor to the Signpost through his "Night Sky" column and an avid sky watcher, will kick off the library’s astronomy series. He will present "The Moon: Our Nearest Neighbor" on Thursday, February 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Placitas Community Library.

He’ll also talk about the Apollo missions to the moon and about possible future lunar missions. Bring binoculars for a closer look at the real thing when Charlie takes you outside to look at a few of the visible features on the moon.  

February also brings Lunar New Year celebrations around the world. The Placitas Community Library will offer its Lunar New Year Celebration on Saturday, February 12 from 2-4 p.m. Children and adults are welcome to join the festivities to welcome the “Year of the Rabbit” with stories, food, craft activities, games, and prizes. A new Lunar New Year dragon will be unveiled, created from the traced handprints of hundreds of Placitas residents. Plans are underway for a parade of previous years’ dragons, complete with noisemakers and music. This is a fun way for everyone to learn about the customs of a celebration that is a major holiday in China, Thailand, Korea, and many other Asian countries.

You’ll also be able to learn your zodiac sign according to the lunar calendar and your horoscope for the coming year.

Previous Lunar New Year dragons have measured 30-40 feet in length, and we want to celebrate this first festival in our new library by creating an even longer dragon. Please stop by the library, and make an outline of your hand on colored paper—these handprints will be used to make the “scales” of our dragon.

Beginning Sunday, February 27 from 1-4 p.m., the library will also be offering a creative writing workshop led by Greg Comer. Greg is an architect living in Placitas and an MFA candidate in creative writing at Goddard College. At press time, this 15-hour workshop is already filled. Things can change, so if you would like to be put on a waiting list, please call the library at (505) 867-3355.


  • February 5: Music and Drama Story Hour with Kat Wilson, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
  • February 7: Book Group 1, 4-5 p.m.
  • February 8: Bilingual Story Hour, 3 p.m.
  • February 10: Pre-K Story Hour, 10:00 a.m.
  • February 10: Charlie Christmann: "The Moon: Our Nearest Neighbor," 6:30 p.m. Bring your binoculars!  
  • February 12: Lunar New Year with stories, games, crafts, food, and parade, 2-4 p.m.
  • February 15: Kids' Book Club, 3 p.m.
  • February 19: Music and Drama Story Hour with Kat Wilson, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
  • February 24: Pre-K Story Hour, 10:00 a.m.
  • February 24: Placitas History Project, 6:30 p.m. All are welcome.
  • February 26: Roberta Price: "Across the Great Divide: Hippie Time in the Rockies," 2-4 p.m. Slide show and book signing.
  • February 27: Creative Writing Workshop with Greg Comer, 1-4 p.m. First session of five.





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