Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Real People

A dozen people turned out for a fundraising cooking class with Chef Diane Herrera Shepard including (clockwise from lower left) Dawn Wolf, Rose Gardiner, Jadze Biskis, Vivian De Lara, Pat Quick, Betty Closser, Susan Hickman, Peggy Salazar and Geri Escarcida.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Church and community rally around injured friend

—Bill Diven

In the hands of a Placitas chef and her friends, the preparation of food can be a tool to help people in need.

Recently a dozen people signed up for a cooking class led by Chef Diane Herrera Shepard to aid Michael Crofoot, who is recovering after crashing his truck on an icy Placitas road. The truck likely is totaled, although the trailer with his landscaping and earthworking tools may be salvageable, but his injuries have left him unable to drive or work for at least several months.

“People know him within the church and within the community,” said Pat Thorpe, who leads the board of deacons at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church.

The fundraising idea evolved from related activities within the church where Shepard is a member, Crofoot sings in the choir, and Thorpe co-chairs the Health Ministry Partnership Committee, which works to promote healthy lifestyles for church members and beyond. Shepard and Thorpe held cooking classes last year as part of the health committee’s community outreach.

They also belong to Los Jardineros, the gardening club, and conducted classes for its members as well.

“I was talking about Michael and maybe we could do something for him, and almost simultaneously Diane and I said, ‘How about a cooking class?’” Thorpe said. “This one was very successful. We hope to use the concept for other needs in our community.”

Another class already is scheduled for early February sponsored by Rebuilding Together Sandoval County to benefit a Placitas family in need, she added.

The 12 slots in the recent class filled quickly with 11 women and one man paying fifty dollars apiece for a lesson in sanitary cooking spaces, knife sharpening, onion dicing, and preparing Stromboli that they can take home for dinner. Other people donated separately or paid for the ingredients for the class held in the church kitchen so that all proceeds could go to Crowfoot.

“We were trying to find something interesting that would appeal to people and be healthy and fun,” said Shepard, who retired as a college instructor before earning a culinary degree and working independently teaching kitchen skills. “We found out a lot of people didn’t know what Stromboli was.” For the record, Stromboli is a baked Italian dish typically made with bread dough that is folded or rolled in layers around cheeses, meats and vegetables. Or as Shepard said, sort of an Italian burrito.

Church members and friends of Crofoot are helping with his transportation, and an account has been established in his name at US Bank in Placitas to accept donations.

Crofoot told the Signpost that he was returning home on December 26 when dry pavement turned to snow and then black ice. Topping a rise he lost traction and crashed into a hillside fracturing the top of his spine resulting in nerve damage and what he hopes is a temporary loss of most motion and strength in his left arm.

He’s also in a wrap-around brace from his chest to his chin and for now is relying on the friends made during his twenty years in Placitas.

“I have all the help I can properly dream up,” he said. “My job description has changed since I can’t dig a hole, so I’m becoming a consultant putting jobs and people together.”

Crofoot variously describes himself as a nurseryman, scientist, and writer whose main business was landscaping and ecological restoration. Most of his income came from cutting down dead piñon trees.

He also collects native seeds and promotes planting them to restore the Placitas landscape damaged by overgrazing generations ago and now ongoing climate change. A few weeks after the accident, he lectured on the local effects of climate change at the Placitas Community Library where he serves on the landscape committee.

“We’ve already lost a lot of piñons as the direct result of climate change,” Crofoot said. Placitas is at the epicenter of a dieback, he added citing one researcher’s prediction that there may be no forests in the Southwest by 2050.

For now, the brace and his healing require perfect posture, which he said fits nicely with sitting at a computer keyboard to write about ecology and work on a novel.

“I feel like I’m in a circle of love, a circle of caregivers,” he continued. “Nerves just heal and wake up, or they don’t… As a scientist, I have strong reservations about prayer, but I stood up in the church and told the congregation I would welcome their prayers to bring back my nerves.”

Placitas Sage Cohousing meets Placitas West neighbors

On January 16, the “Sagers” of Placitas Sage Cohousing held a “Meet and Greet” at the Placitas Community Library for their future neighbors in Placitas West. About thirty people attended and studied the drawings and floor plans for the proposed buildings—18 “casitas in Placitas” around a Common House and Studio on six acres adjacent to Forest Service land. Jim Madueña, builder for the project, explained how the small pueblo-style homes will fit into the landscape, be built to conserve water and energy, and add a needed opportunity for downsizing for those who want to stay in Placitas to “age in place.”

Sagers listened and took note of concerns expressed about water supply, traffic, lighting, etcetera. It is important for this community of seniors, most of whom now live in Placitas, to respect and fit into the values shared by many current Placitas residents. Bryan Bowen, architect for the project, recently named “Architect of the Year” by the AIA Colorado North, and a leader in the cohousing movement, has provided a “Water Usage Analysis” showing that, following clear water conservation guidelines for both homes and landscape, the community will use seventy percent less water than conventional households. A traffic study just completed indicates the community of seniors, mostly retired, will make no significant impact on the traffic on Route 165.

This self-developing community, after nearly three years of working toward their goal of creating a senior cohousing community in Placitas, is excited to be seeing the project come to reality. A Design Closure Workshop on January 30 and 31 concluded a series of workshops in which the future residents provided Bowen, the architect, with their input on the layout of the 18 casitas and the design of the three home sizes. These plans, with the Civil Engineering, Water Availability Analysis, Septic System Design, Traffic Study, will be submitted to the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission in early February. Future residents are hoping to move into their new homes in late 2017.

Information about Placitas Sage Cohousing is available at their website,, or by calling Joyce at 697-8649.

Freemasonry for non-Masons

—Lin Robinson, Placitas Community Library

Freemasonry has long been misunderstood by non-Masons. Over the years, it has been attacked by various religious and other groups, as well as uninformed individuals. And it has an interesting history. For example, following a scandal involving some Masons, the Anti-Masonic Party was formed and, in 1828, they held the first national political party convention to nominate a candidate for president of the United States. Many highly-regarded public figures have been Freemasons, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and John Hancock, to name a few.

At the Placitas Community Library on February 20, at 1:00 p.m., Lawrence Robinson will present a talk about some features, history, and details of Freemasonry. The general public is invited. Robinson has been a Freemason for more than fifty years and was a Worshipful Master of his lodge in Florida. He has presented similar talks on Freemasonry for the Institute for Lifelong Learning for New Mexicans.

Forest Service welcomes Crystal Powell as Sandia’s new District Ranger

Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands is happy to welcome Crystal Powell to the Sandia Ranger District. Crystal Powell, who had been the Acting (temporary) District Ranger on the Sandia Ranger District in Tijeras, was recently chosen for the permanent District Ranger position there. She comes to the Cibola from the Rio Grande National Forest in Monte Vista, Colorado, where she served as the Recreation and Lands Program Manager.

Crystal’s experience also includes minerals, cultural resources, tribal relations, appeals, litigation, NEPA, public affairs, and fire management. Her extensive background in recreation management is a welcome asset to the district; the Sandia Ranger District is a very high use area, given its close proximity to Albuquerque.

“I am very excited to be here and looking forward to being a part of the community and working with all of the amazing partners and neighbors that engage with the Sandia Ranger District,” she said.

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