Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Girl Scout Troop 2296

Girl Scout Troop 2296 members from left to right (top) Shelby Coen, Kelly Hughes, Jackie Greene; bottom row Sara Watson, Sunny Gensler.

Focused On More Than Just Cookies, Local Girl Scout Troop Volunteers At Local Food Bank

—Betsy Model for the Signpost

Almost any preteen girl will be happy to talk about food if asked; what was in their packed lunch that day, what the school cafeteria makes best (and, um, like, the worst) and what their favorite junk food is when hanging out with their friends.

But for a group of young women from Girl Scout Troop 2296, food became the focal point of a different kind when they collectively decided to volunteer at Casa Rosa Food Bank in Placitas this past December.

The troop, supervised by co-leaders Linda Hughes and Amy Coen, contribute volunteer hours to a variety of projects within Sandoval County at various times each year but, for the second year in a row, the girls themselves voted to volunteer at Casa Rosa.

The eight troop members who participated in the volunteer program - as well as troop-mates who performed different volunteer tasks this year, including decorating trees along SR 165 during the holiday season - have been together since they all attended Placitas Elementary School and were part of a Brownie troop there. 

Now, ranging in age from eleven to thirteen and attending a variety of schools in grades fifth through seventh, the girls continue their friendship - and their spirit of community contribution - through their mixed Junior and Cadet troop.

"Considering their age, these girls have known each other a surprisingly long time and have chosen, in spite of now attending different schools in the area, to continue their friendship through troop activities," explains troop leader Linda Hughes. "Their commitment to each other and to staying active in the community is something they choose, on their own, to do."

In December what the girls chose to do was to participate in receiving, sorting and stacking food deliveries at Casa Rosa Food Bank. 

Following a bulk food delivery from Road Runner Food Bank's delivery truck, troop members Shelby Coen, Kelly Hughes, Jackie Greene, Sara Watson, Sunny Gensler, Taylor Evanko, and sisters Sydney and Corey Kizer unpacked cartons, stacked canned and packaged goods, helped sort bulk food stuffs and straightened shelves on both the food bank's main floor and in the storage areas.

Some of the girls wore their troop vests or sashes, some wore sweaters or sweatshirts displaying their individual school emblems but all the girls wore big smiles throughout their efforts.

"In 2008 the girls decided to set up a 'giving tree' at the cafe in Placitas which benefited Casa Rosa," explained Hughes, "but last year and this year the girls wanted to be more hands-on in their efforts.  Through their volunteer efforts, these girls have developed a really clear understanding that access to food isn't always equal within a community."

The Scout Troop's next effort at food distribution?  Girl Scout cookie sales taking place this month at various locations in Sandoval County.

Cold times and broken pipes: Resilient Placitas plans to plan

That last cold snap woke many of us up as to how thin the veneer is between our nice warm, running water homes and a cave. Many suffered burst pipes as temperatures plummeted below zero. And these homes were without water for days, waiting for plumbing help.

All those who depend on natural gas were cut off for days, watching themselves shiver in the national media. Some may blame builders for taking short cuts when installing plumbing or the NM Gas Company, but blame will do nothing when the next crisis hits us.

Resilient Placitas realizes that such crises are like regional water planning: Only the most dedicated water wonks work on it, until drought restrictions are imposed, streams and springs dry, and fires rage. Then the water planning halls fill up for another short session of concern. When the snows and rains return, the drought goes out of sight and out of people’s minds. We hope that won’t happen this time, so we plan to help our community plan and prepare better for times when that thin veneer falls away.

Quite a bit of work has already been done, such as the Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade helping folks learn about food caches, water storage, and other information. Resilient Placitas plans to organize further awareness efforts.

Arctic cold with high winds and losing gas service, electrical and communication outages, floods, deep snow, and severe drought not only could happen, they probably will. And those are only some of the obvious ones. Unless these cause long-term, total devastation, we could endure and survive these events with a minimum of discomfort and anxiety, using the time for a good party or two.

Public forums are being considered on:

  • Getting intimate with your house: a checklist of basic home maintenance and emergency strategy; and workshops and individual home evaluations. Do you know how to shut off your electricity and water? Are your pipes exposed? Could your foundation be undermined by a gully washer?
  • Alternatives: Resilient Placitas has already held an event on solar power. Wood heating saved many of us recently. A good stash of food and water, plus fresh grown veggies and herbs on-site, is a good feeling. Our local ham radio operators are well organized as usual and can coordinate and have strategies so all of us know critical information.
  • Community: “safe houses,” where neighbors can find shelter; a community emergency water supply—one well in the neighborhood could be fitted with a generator, and all could get water there. Implement a roll call strategy, so all are visited and helped.

We invite the community to help us realize these goals. Resilient Placitas will be hosting a gathering of interested individuals and groups in April to begin to plan for better preparedness.

Contact Vicki Gottlieb at (505) 404-8022 or with comments or interest.

Memoir writing returns to the Placitas Community Library

By popular demand, Norma Libman has agreed to offer her Memoir Writing Workshop again at the Placitas Community Library (PCL). Adults who have thought about writing down memories about their lives will find that this workshop can help them get started.

Norma Libman, a journalist and educator, has worked with hundreds of people who want to preserve the stories of their lives, whether for publication or to give to their children and grandchildren, and has developed a method for retrieving long forgotten memories.   

Participants should come prepared to write and will leave with at least one story started and a clear idea of how they might organize their writing. The workshop is free, but a $5 materials fee is required to cover the cost of The Memoir Writing Workbook and other materials participants will receive. The workshop will be held on Saturday, March 19 at the PCL from 1 to 3 p.m. Due to the popularity of this workshop, we are taking reservations. Please call the library at (505) 867-3355 to reserve your spot (limit 35 participants).

Placiteña Norma Libman has had more than 500 articles published in newspapers nationwide. She has taught writing, literature, and humanities in colleges and universities in Illinois and New Mexico for more than 30 years. She now designs programs and lectures for Elderhostel/Road Scholar, teaches writing at schools, workshops, and conferences, and writes and lectures on her current research projects—Chinese Nu Shu writing and Crypto-Jews of the American Southwest. Those who attend her workshops find inspiration and practical information to help them tell their stories.

Upcoming Events

  • March 6: Creative Writing with Greg Comer, 1 p.m. Second session of five. (Workshop is full; call 867-3355 for more information.)
  • March 8: Bilingual Story Hour, 3 p.m.
  • March 10: Pre-K Story Hour, 10 a.m.
  • March 12: Teen Time—discussion and pizza, 12:30 p.m.; movie time, 2 p.m.
  • March 13: Creative Writing with Greg Comer, 1 p.m. Third session of five.
  • March 15: Kids’ Book Club, 3 p.m.
  • March 19: Memoir Writing with Norma Libman, 1 p.m. (Call 867-3355 to reserve your spot.)
  • March 20: Creative Writing with Greg Comer, 1 p.m. Fourth session of five.
  • March 24: Pre-K Story Hour, 10 a.m.
  • March 26: Special guest author Lisa Bear Goldman reads from Amadito and the Spider Woman, 11 a.m.
  • March 27: Kick-off party for Script Frenzy, 1 p.m.

The Placitas Community Library invites you to stop watching and start writing: Script Frenzy 2011

—Kathy Kitts

Welcome to Script Frenzy, a maverick approach to scriptwriting. In April, more than 35,000 participants worldwide will attempt to tackle 100 pages of original material in just 30 days. The tight deadline prevents writers from getting bogged down and encourages everyone to bash out screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, or graphic novels.

There is no fee to participate in Script Frenzy, making it the best scriptwriting event on the planet. No valuable prizes are awarded, making it the worst scriptwriting event on the planet. Script Frenzy is happy to fall under both categories.

In order to “win” at Script Frenzy, participants need only sign up and complete the goal of writing 100 pages in April. In return for their efforts, Script Frenzy winners are rewarded with a Script Frenzy Winner’s Certificate, Web icon, and eternal bragging rights.

Here in Placitas, Kathy Kitts, the local municipal liaison, will be hosting a kick-off party and several write-ins at the Placitas Community Library. Write-ins offer a supportive environment and surprisingly effective peer pressure, turning the usually solitary act of writing into a community experience. All screenwriters are welcome regardless of experience!

The local kick-off party will be on Sunday, March 27, 2011 from 1 to 3 p.m. All attendees are asked to bring a nonalcoholic drink or snack to share. For those who wish to plan out their screenplays, activities at the party will include making play covers from recycled magazines, writing tips, formatting techniques, and a demonstration of playwriting software. For those who want more information or to meet other first timers, there will be informational packets and more seasoned writers available for mentoring.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Script Frenzy or would like to talk to participants from the Albuquerque Script Frenzy chapter, please contact Kathy Kitts at, or visit the Web site at

For more information on local Placitas activities, please visit, or call the Placitas Community Library at (505) 867-3355.

Crest of Montezuma

Downoad map as pdfRep. Martin Heinrich and son

While a great hiker, sometimes Congressman Heinrich’s son Micah still requires a ride on the hiking trail.

Crest of Montezuma

—U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich  (NM-1) for the Signpost

The Sandia Mountains have always been a critical part of my family’s life here in central New Mexico. Not only did I start my children off hiking in the Sandias when they were still small enough to ride on my back, but my wife Julie even spent her due date hiking in these mountains just before our oldest son was born. While I served on the Albuquerque City Council, I was lucky to be a part of several efforts to protect hundreds of acres of open space that formed a critical buffer to the Sandia Mountain Wilderness and helped to connect its wildlife to populations in the nearby Manzano Mountains.

That process of giving these great mountains their due has been just that, a process—and it continues to this day. 

To back up just a bit, eight years ago, Kewa Pueblo bought 900 acres of ridgeline that extends north from the Sandia escarpment, known as the Crest of Montezuma. This treasured landscape just northeast of the Village of Placitas and adjacent to the Cibola National Forest was transferred to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) through an exchange four years later.

It is clear that the people of central New Mexico know well the value of these 900 acres. Many local residents have shared their concerns with me about the future of this land. Most concerning to them are the ways in which access could be restricted for recreational uses and that a critical corridor for wildlife would be endangered. Gravel quarries or development could replace the trails, junipers, and mule deer that occupy the area now. The fear is that without the proper management, we could lose the backdrop to the historic and beautiful Placitas village. 

That is why I recently reintroduced legislation to shift management of the Crest of Montezuma from the BLM to the U.S. Forest Service and to withdraw the crest from development for mining or quarrying. The Forest Service currently manages thousands of similar acres in the Sandia Mountains for recreation and conservation purposes. By shifting the management of the Crest of Montezuma to the Forest Service, New Mexicans can be sure that the land is not sold to private interests or developed for mineral resources. Particularly in New Mexico, families have long histories of using public lands for hiking, camping, hunting, and other traditions, both new and old. The Crest of Montezuma, which is adjacent to the Sandia Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest, should be a place for local residents to enjoy and for mountain wildlife to flourish.

As Teddy Roosevelt said in 1912, “We do not intend that our natural resources shall be exploited by the few against the interests of the many…for our aim is to preserve our natural resources for the public as a whole, for the average man and the average woman who make up the body of the American people.”

Transferring the management of the Crest of Montezuma to the Forest Service could improve the quality of life for all who enjoy recreating, for all who benefit from the tourism dollars it brings, and for all who pass down New Mexico’s outdoor traditions to their children in such a spectacular setting.

Learn more at or

“The Long House” (Gutierrez House) on Paseo de San Antonio.

Mrs. King’s painting as altered by a fundraising group. This is believed to be the Gutierrez home on Paseo de San Antonio.

Placitas History Project

—Bob Gajkowski

Novella Harrison King, Artist

The Library’s Placitas History Project (PHP) hopes you took the opportunity to visit the “Placitas of the 60’s and 70’s” Photo Exhibit which was presented in the Collin Room at the Placitas Community Library during February.  Curator Tony Hull collected over 25 photographs of people and places taken during those decades. The photos evoked curiosity, humor and many “I know him!” and “That’s me!” cries from those who stopped by. Plans are evolving to make these photographs accessible for individual viewing as well as in a rotating exhibit at the Library.

On another subject…back in September 2010, the History Project published in The Signpost, a photo entitled “Wintertime in Placitas” by artist Novella Harrison King and asked if anyone recognized the location in the Village.  Several people responded with possible locations, but no one was absolutely certain. Several old-timers felt it was not a scene from our Village. One person confessed that she didn’t really know where the scene might be from, but she liked the picture so much she painted her own version of it which now hangs over her fireplace. Just as the History Project was preparing to write to several other “Placitas” type communities in New Mexico to ask if they recognized the scene, we were contacted by Melanie Vanlyssel.

Melanie told us that Novella King, now 83 years old, is her grandmother who lives in Bernalillo. When she was told about the story in The Signpost concerning her painting, Mrs. King told her granddaughter the following story:

“The original painting was done in the early to mid-Seventies. I loved the Placitas area and painted many scenes there but there were almost no road signs so it’s hard to remember exact locations. The wintertime image is from an Easter Seals note card but it is not true to the original painting.”

Mrs. King explained that after it was completed she loaned the original painting to the head of the charitable group to be used in a series of note cards for fundraising.  Shortly after this Mrs. King received a call and was told by a representative of the organization that they had painted over the mountain slope at the top of her painting to create much more blue sky. Mrs. King couldn’t believe that they had “the nerve” to make her painting “better” by changing it. To this day she does not acknowledge the painting as her own.

Shortly after the History Project received Melanie’s first letter she wrote again. She and Mrs. King had driven up to Placitas to locate the point from which the original painting had been done. Driving along Paseo de San Antonio and just before Camino de la Ceruela there is a house with a large, open portal. From here, looking toward the San Antonio Catholic Mission, the basic outline of Mrs. King’s painting can be seen. The modification by the charitable organization, the passage of time and the artist’s interpretation may account for what today seems like many inconsistencies. Mrs. King said she and her instructor, Carl von Hassler, would sit and sketch the “long house” because he liked how it looked.  The area was very attractive to paint then, but looked nothing like it does today since most of the adobes are gone. She said it was especially pretty in the Spring when the many small orchards were in blossom.

Mrs. King is a well-known Southwest artist and studied under Carl von Hassler (1887-1969). Von Hassler, who was known as the “Dean of Albuquerque Artists”, painted the 1927 “Seven Cities of Cibola” murals at the Kimo Theater in Albuquerque as well as many other commissions including the 1929 Albuquerque Airport ceiling and vigas.

Several more of Novella King’s paintings can be viewed on the website The Long Coat Fine Arts Gallery (formerly Ann Buell Gallery) in Ruidoso featured Mrs. King’s work at a show in January of this year.

The History Project would like to express special thanks to Nick Baldanado who first brought  the “Wintertime in Placitas” note card to our attention and set in motion this interesting investigation. Further thanks to Melanie Vanlyssel and especially to Novella King for their help.

If you have photos, pieces of memorabilia from early Placitas or information on any aspect of Placitas history, please get in touch with Bob Gajkowski at 771-0253.

The Fig Man’s workshop

Resilient Placitas (RP) invites you to our spring equinox orchard event. Come on out to Anasazi Fields Winery in the Village of Placitas on Saturday, March 19, 2011 from 12:30-3:30 p.m. This oasis of a vineyard/orchard is located at 26 Camino de Los Pueblitos, a few blocks northwest of Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. A donation of $10 is suggested.

Lloyd Kreitzer, the Fig Man of New Mexico and a featured speaker at last month’s Xeriscape Conference and Expo in Albuquerque, will show and tell us how to cultivate common fig (Ficus carica), pomegranate (Punica granatum) and Chinese date (Ziziphus zizyphus jujuba) trees. He will bring fig trees in containers from his extensive collection of a thousand or so plants for this special demo.

Weather permitting, we will then drive into the Village to stop and look at trees of these same three species that the Fig Man found in midwinter doing well in their Placitas soils and climate.

Each species has a long history in our part of the U.S. Fig and pomegranate were brought into the Southwest by Spanish settlers in the 1600s, while the date was introduced by a federal program in 1877. All three were imported from their natural distributions in south Asia.

The Fig Man is passionate about figs, and on his Web site ( says, “There is a special joy about being with figs because they are so ancient and so patient. They will be the last plant to leaf or fig in the spring. So, do not be surprised if a month or two or five passes and then suddenly they leaf out.”

As an herbalist and therapist, he’s just as passionate about substances and active ingredients found in the plants. So expect him to be in every way “figged up” for our RP orchard event!

Based in Albuquerque, Kreitzer’s business services include pruning fig trees within the city, offering 50 varieties of fig trees, a fig manual and recipes for sale, and serving as advisor/consultant to owners of nonbearing trees. His number is (505) 266-8000. (This is information only and not an endorsement of any specific good or service.)

Our RP contact for this event is Cosmos at (505) 217-9384 and

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.




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