Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Around Town

Placitas cohousing project clears staff hurdle

—Bill Diven
A plan to bring cohousing to Placitas earned an approval recommendation with conditions from the Sandoval County planning staff in advance of its first public hearing.

Placitas Sage Cohousing is proposing to cluster 18 attached homes in groups of two and three on about 6.2 acres in Placitas West. The site at Forest Lane and Ridge Road is less than a half mile south of State Road 165 and about two miles east of Interstate 25.

The development includes a community building with a kitchen and gallery/studio space and is intended for people 55 and older. A homeowners’ association (HOA) would manage the property with the housing units averaging 965 square feet, the largest being 1,304 square feet.

“It really started out of an awareness that there are seniors in the Placitas community who moved away reluctantly because they did not have an alternative to downsizing from their large homes that were too large to manage,” said Joyce Thompson, president of Placitas Sage Cohousing LLC. “The whole point of cohousing is for people to own their homes, have their own independent income, and live in neighborhoods… We know that being in a community, connected to other people, is very important to people as they age.”

The plan was scheduled for a public hearing before the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission on May 25 after the Signpost deadline for the June edition. Final approval or denial would be up to the County Commission after a second hearing.

To move ahead, the project needs both a zone change for its mixed-use master plan and a variance for the number, design, and placement of parking spaces and shelters.

The idea is not without critics, however. At a May 4 community meeting, nearly half of the 22 people who spoke voiced mild-to-serious concerns about the project. Those included setting a precedent for subdividing land for high-density development, uncertainty of the future appearance after the preset group is no longer managing the HOA, cohousing being more suited to an urban setting with senior services, and impact on the delicate environment. One person accused the promoters, all longtime Placitas residents, of being motivated by greed.

Others favored the idea saying senior housing is needed in Placitas, they expect the occupants will be good neighbors, residents will benefit the local economy, and the housing density won’t impact Placitas West significantly.

The review by the county planning staff found the project is consistent with the Placitas Area Plan adopted in 2009 and recommended the P&Z Commission recommend approval to the County Commission. The staff attached nine conditions to the recommendation some prohibiting future changes to the site plan without another round of public hearings an approvals.

The conditions also require the project to meet certain subdivision requirements and to submit the HOA bylaws for review before the proposal advances to the County Commission.

The project is designed by Bryan Bowen, a Colorado architect who grew up in Placitas and said he has worked with cohousing projects across the country over the last 16 years. He is the son of Leland and Bunny Bowen who live in Placitas West and are providing some of the land for the project.

Straw bale gardening

Cathryne Richards, a Sandoval County Master Gardener, will be presenting an overview of straw bale gardening at the Placitas Library on June 25, at 2:00 p.m. She has attended the Xeriscape Conference and the Land and Water Summit, held in New Mexico over the past seven years. She is one the Facilitators of the Master Gardening Class HOMEscape Solutions.

Although not a new concept, using raised beds, straw bales, and other methods of above-ground gardening is very successful in arid desert landscapes. If the ground is too hard to dig, plants will have a tough time growing; with this method all the nutrients and growing medium are in the straw bale itself.

Learn the advantages of using straw bales in your flower or vegetable gardens.

The switchback on Camino de las Huertas above Cedar Creek Road proved too much for a big-rig driver who had just delivered a load of construction supplies. An extra move or two left tractor wheels over the edge, the main road to this part of Placitas blocked, and the driver waiting for a tow.

A Placitas Garden Tour pathway

A Plein Air artist sketches at a Placitas Garden Tour site

The inaugural Placitas Garden Tour blooms

—Sandra Liakus Pilcher, Placitas Garden Tour Committee Co-Chair

On May 14, the Placitas community, area tour guests, Plein Air artists, and the Master Gardeners came together to appreciate spring residential garden beauty. On a warm day with occasional gusts of wind, over three hundred tour guests navigated the gardens. As a result of this success, the second annual 2017 Placitas Garden tour will be held in May, 2017.

One Santa Fe resident said she came to view the artists painting scenes in each garden throughout the day. The Albuquerque Bonsai Club demonstrated the art of Bonsai pruning to guests at the Topiary Garden. Several tour guests commented that they were amazed to see a variety of garden and landscape styles hidden behind courtyard walls in Placitas. Photographers had the opportunity to capture several varieties of roses, irises, and other perennial flowers in bloom in the residential gardens. Guests were treated to harp music and guided native plant and labyrinth tours at the community library garden.

Thank you to the gracious garden owners, the Placitas Community Library, Sandoval County Master Gardeners, other volunteers, advertisers, and tour guests for making this inaugural garden tour a success.

Contact the Placitas Garden Tour Committee at, if you are interested in having your Placitas garden showcased on the 2017 garden tour.

Family herd of Placitas horses is now under the legal ownership of its guardians and caretakers.

Straight To The Horse’s Mouth raises funds to care for rescued herd

—Laurel Hull

Horses have been roaming free around the Placitas area for generations and have been both a problem and a pleasure. The origin of the wild horses in Placitas is in question, but for many, seeing the horses graze and roam freely and watching the herd grow with newborns and new members was enchanting, yet it became bittersweet in its tragedies as well as threats to their continued wellbeing.

In April, 2016, our organization, ‘Straight to the Horse’s Mouth,’ obtained legal ownership of a family group of these horses. They have been, and will continue to be, safely contained and maintained on a member’s property. They are gradually becoming accustomed to interaction with people, and they live safely off the road and out of danger or threat. The herd has grown from six to 11. Ownership of the herd will enable us to be more proactive with birth control management.

The history behind our herd, and ‘Straight to the Horse’s Mouth,’ may not be known to many. In 2013, controversy surrounded the herds of wild horses grazing in the Placitas area. Some were captured and “bought” from the New Mexico Livestock Board. There were too many horses to support, and our local family herd, that had been captured, was released onto private property with an agreement of ownership. After supporting and caring for these horses for three years, this family herd is now under the legal ownership of its guardians and caretakers.

Our goal is to provide sanctuary to the original horses and training to the offspring. We are researching ways our horses can become therapy horses for children, or provide a gentle ride through the unpopulated areas around us.

We want these horses to continue to be an enchanting part of our Placitas area.

See details at and in the flyer, below.

Rooms excavated at Jemez Historic Site in 1965

A range of portable objects including fragment of an Albiates Chert drill or projectile point and a spindle whorl.

Publishing the past: the 1965 excavations at Giusewa Pueblo

—Matthew J. Barbour, Manager, Jemez Historic Site

Through the centuries, Jemez Historic Site’s Giusewa Pueblo has been excavated by numerous archaeologists. The collections in Santa Fe are full of pottery, flaked stone, and other archaeological materials recovered at the site. However, very few research reports discuss Giusewa in any great detail. While lots of archaeological work was conducted, very little has ever been published. This is beginning to change.

In 2014, Regge Wiseman, Research Associate for the Office of Archaeological Studies, decided to take on a project at Jemez Historic Site nearly fifty years in the making. Looking back to the summer of 1965, Jemez Historic Site was in the process of enlarging its visitor center. Bathrooms were to be installed, but needed a water line be connected to the pipe servicing Via Coeli, now known as the Fitzgerald Center. To do so required the line to go through part of Giusewa Pueblo and Archaeologist Laurens Hammack was called in to excavate and document what was to be destroyed.

With the assistance of his wife Nancy, Robert Cobean and a field crew made up almost exclusively of Jemez Pueblo members—including Luisa Toledo, Percingole Toya, Joe Vigil, and Lupe Yepa—completed fieldwork during July and August of that year. They excavated six pueblo rooms, stabilized the mission church, dug several test pits, and recovered three sets of human remains. Artifacts represented a vast array of material culture including: whole and fragmentary pots, a stone axe, animal bones, a drill, and a piki stone just to name a few.

The excavations had the potential to greatly increase our knowledge of Jemez Historic Site but, due to limited funds, no analysis of the artifacts or write-up of the excavations was ever undertaken. That was true until 2014.

Archaeologist Regge Wiseman met Cobean as a boy and had heard of the project from him when it began. He had even had the opportunity to volunteer on the project but had chosen instead to work that summer to save for college. Later, he had the opportunity to work under Hammack, but looking back, he always regretted not participating in the summer of 1965 dig. In 2014, from his retirement, he approached Jemez Historic Site with the idea of finally seeing the project to its conclusion. With the aid of Laurens and Nancy Hammack, Wiseman volunteered to conduct the analyses and write-up.

His findings were quite surprising. To start, the rooms excavated by Hammack dated to the 1600s and clearly showed Jemez way of life beginning to change with exposure to the Spanish Missionaries. For example, rooms were constructed in the traditional Gallina-like layout, which included a central hearth and corner bins, but the diet of the Jemez had switched to include Old World domesticated animals, primarily sheep and goat. A spindle whorl was also present indicating that not only were they eating the sheep and goat, but processing their hair for textiles.

Jemez Black on White pottery was still being produced. However, this had also changed. With the coming of the Spanish, Jemez potters had begun to produce colonial forms. In one room, a Jemez Black-on-White soup plate was uncovered. Like the sheep and goat bones, this vessel demonstrates that the everyday culinary life of the Jemez people had begun to adopt some aspects of Spanish culture.

Pottery vessels also included Kapo (a highly polished blackware) and Glazewares suggesting trade with the surrounding Tewa (San Ildefonso and Santa Clara) and Keres (Zia and Kewa) communities. These were not the only trade goods found. Perhaps the most surprising nonlocal product was a projectile point or drill made of Alibates Chert. Alibates is a stone that only outcrops in far eastern New Mexico and west Texas possibly suggesting contact with the Great Plains.

One of the few areas in which Jemez did not appear to be modernizing was in its corn crop. In comparisons with corn grown in Santa Fe, most Jemez cobs were significantly smaller with eight rows of kernels instead of twelve. This could reflect a specific type of corn grown by the Jemez in their specialized high altitude farming atop the south facing mesas of the Jemez Mountains. Other types of corn grown by the Spanish or other Puebloan groups may not have been acclimated to the environment.

Intrigued? Your chance to read more about the excavations will soon be at hand.

Coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of the excavations, the Archaeological Society of New Mexico (of which the author is the Vice President) voted to accept Regge Wiseman’s report on the 1965 Excavations at Giusewa Pueblo in 2015 for release in their Special Publications Series. Currently, the report is being edited and prepared by ASNM’s head of special publications David Kirkpatrick. It is expected to be published later this year.

Annual celebration of the Feast Day of San Antonio de Padua takes place as a June 12 community event with tradition and festivities in the Village of Placitas.

Placitas Village patron saint honored

—Bob Gajkowski

The annual celebration of the Feast Day of San Antonio (St. Anthony) de Padua, the patron saint of the Village of Placitas, will take place on June 12. This traditional fiesta honors the saint for whom the Village’s mission church was named. With the establishment of the Las Huertas Land Grant and the founding of the Village in the mid 1700s, local families sought to honor Antonio for his intercession on their behalf with their God. Good health, abundant crops, and protection from their enemies were among the supplications for which the people asked and prayed.

On Sunday, June 12, the congregation of Mission San Antonio de Padua in Placitas invites everyone to join with them to honor Antonio, beginning with the offering of the Mass at 9:30 a.m., followed by a procession through the Village. The santo of San Antonio, accompanied by those from Our Lady of Sorrows Church and the Sanctuario de San Lorenzo of Bernalillo and San Jose Mission in Algodones, will be carried in procession through the Village, stopping by several altars for blessings. The mayordomos of each of these congregations, along with strolling musicians, will join with all those in attendance to thank San Antonio for his intercessions and to ask him to continue them on their behalf. The Knights of Columbus from Our Lady of Sorrows Church will form an honor guard and Los Matachines de Bernalillo will lead the procession. Upon their return to the Mission, all participants and visitors are invited to a ranchos-style breakfast at the Mission Social Center.

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