Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Fire restrictions for Sandoval County

New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Secretary-Designate John Bemis and State Forester Tony Delfin announced restrictions on fireworks, smoking, campfires, and open-fires for 29 counties.

The restrictions went into effect at 8 a.m., Saturday, April 16, and are being imposed due to prolonged low levels of precipitation, high winds, and low humidity across much of New Mexico, which has caused high to extreme fire danger.

“Some areas of New Mexico have not seen appreciable moisture in as many 150 days, and as we progress into spring, the risk to communities from wildfire is increasing significantly,” said Bemis. “I’m urging all residents in the areas affected to follow the restriction guidelines to protect lives and property in their communities.” The restrictions will be imposed on all nonmunicipal, nonfederal and nontribal lands in Bernalillo, Catron, Chaves, Cibola, Curry, DeBaca, Dona Ana, Eddy, Grant, Guadalupe, Harding, Hidalgo, Lea, Lincoln, Luna, Mora, McKinley, Otero, Quay, Roosevelt, Sandoval, Santa Fe, San Miguel, Sierra, Socorro, Torrance, Valencia, and Union counties.

The restrictions in all counties listed will remain in effect until rescinded. The restrictions include:

  • Smoking: Allowed only in enclosed buildings, developed recreation areas, within structures, in vehicles equipped with ashtrays on paved or surfaced roads, and in areas at least three feet in diameter that are barren or cleared of all flammable material.
  • Fireworks: Prohibited in all state and private wildlands outside city or federal jurisdictions. Wildland areas include lands covered wholly or in part by timber, brush, grass, grain, or other flammable vegetation. Exceptions are allowed for fire department approved public exhibits.
  • Campfires: Banned in all open areas, including New Mexico state parks unless the following exceptions are met. An exception is granted to the above where cooking or heating devices use kerosene, white gas, or propane as a fuel in an improved camping area that is cleared of all flammable vegetation for at least 30 feet or has a water source. (For information, contact park managers, or visit
  • The state forester is also allowing exceptions for charcoal grills and wood and coal stoves within yards associated with a residence or on the premises of a business.
  • Open Burning: Open fires are restricted. This includes the burning of cropland, fields, rangeland, debris burning, slash piles, prescribed burning, or weed burning. There is an exception for open burning on croplands that are irrigated. Persons conducting burns must notify the local fire department, monitor the burn at all times, secure the burn at the end of the day, and follow state air quality rules and local ordinances.
  • Flaring of gas is prohibited. The state forester grants an exception to open burning when the following conditions are met: 1) At least one adult is on site with communications equipment adequate to reach county dispatch and the local fire department in the event of a fire. 2) The individual should also be equipped with a shovel and a water backpack pump or other equipment to deliver water to suppress a fire. 3) The local fire department and county dispatch are notified at least 24 hours in advance of anticipated releases that will result in flaring. If flaring is done by an automated system, then the schedule of flaring shall be provided to the local fire department and county dispatch. Unless the flaring is needed for safety purposes, flaring pursuant to this exception shall not be done on days that are “red flag days,” as determined by the National Weather Service, or on days when the sustained wind is in excess of 25 miles per hour in the area.
  • Exemptions: The state forester may allow exemptions from the above upon receiving a written request and granting subsequent approval in writing. You may apply for an exemption on the Forestry Division Web site at An exemption does not relieve a person from any civil or criminal liability associated with an uncontrolled fire, including costs associated with wildland fire suppression. For specific details and the legal restriction notification, log on to

For more information, please call (505) 476-3325, or visit

Plants that solve problems

—Mike Dooley

Plants can’t help with a new job, but they can solve other problems. Let’s take a look at the problems and some solutions.

Problem: When I look out my window, all I see is the house next door and a wall five feet away.

Answer: The problem could be solved with a variety of tall shrubs, but most shrubs get as wide as they do tall and that would block travel beside the house. You need something that gets eight feet tall but stays only 18 inches deep. Install a well-made trellis with a vine like English ivy growing on it. English ivy is green all year and can take sun or shade.

Problem: My builder did not take landscaping into consideration, so he put the sidewalk about 18 inches from the wall, and I want a plant to fill that space that is very low, evergreen, reasonably drought tolerant, and that blooms.

Answer: Why not try Prostrate wall germander? It’s easy to grow and will fit into a very small space. Germander blooms pink and is surprisingly drought tolerant.

Problem: I want a very small tree for my courtyard. Most of my other plants don’t bloom in the heat of summer, so how about a summer bloomer?

Answer: Crape myrtle is the answer; it blooms in midsummer. Please don’t whack the top off to promote bloom on the new growth—it ruins the shape of this beautiful, small tree. Research the many colors and sizes available “online” to get the perfect plant for your personal taste.

Happy gardening!

For more information, visit Mike at

Preparing your vegetable garden

The weather has started to warm up, and folks are preparing to plant their gardens. The first step in preparing vegetable gardens for planting is cleaning the site. Remove boards, rocks, old plant supports, and general debris. Cut or chop weeds, and crop residue. If the residue is free of disease and weed seed, the material may be worked into the soil or composted. Otherwise, it should be discarded. Plant material, like corn stalks and root systems, will need to be chopped before it is incorporated into the soil. This material will begin to decompose in the soil and will eventually replace or add nitrogen to the soil, which will be available for plants. However, it may take 45 to 60 days before the nitrogen becomes available for the plant to use. If you have finished compost, you may add a light topical application to the area.

The best ways to insure the garden will be successful is to have a soil test performed. A soil test is the only accurate way to determine what nutrients may be limited and how much or what fertilizer to apply to the garden. Soil samples should be taken the same general time each year. Annual soil testing will help you observe trends that may be more important than the absolute values. Remember, the goal of proper soil fertilization or amendment is to gradually increase the nutrient levels of the soil and then maintain them.

In order for the soil test information to be accurate, the sample must be collected correctly. Use a small trowel or spade to collect samples. Collect samples from eight to 10 locations throughout the garden. Do not collect soil samples from areas where water stands or heavy amounts of compost or manure have been dumped. The soil should be dry or at least free of excess moisture. Collect vertical slices of the top four to six inches of soil. Place the soil in a clean plastic bucket, and mix thoroughly. Do not use metal containers or containers that may have been contaminated with detergents or other foreign materials. Take a small amount (approximately two cups) of the thoroughly mixed soil, and place in a paper bag. Submit this sample and Soil Sample Information Sheet to the Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Service, or mail it directly to the SWAT lab at NMSU. The soil testing fee is $26.00. The information sheet and a guide on how to take a representative soil sample are available at the extension service office or online at 

For more information, contact the Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Office at (800) 678-6918, (505) 867-2582, or

Tree Huggers

Hip to be a “Hugger”

—Margaret M. Nava

Back in the 1970s, small groups of Indian villagers began acting together to prevent the cutting of trees in order to reclaim their traditional forest rights. Termed the Chipko Movement (literally “to stick” in Hindu), these activists practiced Gandhian methods of nonviolent resistance through the act of “hugging” trees to protect them from being felled. According to Wikipedia, “The Chipko movement, though primarily a livelihood movement rather than a forest conservation movement, went on to become a rallying point for many future environmentalists, environmental protests, and movements the world over and created a precedent for nonviolent protest. It occurred at a time when there was hardly any environmental movement in the developing world, and its success meant that the world immediately took notice of this nonviolent tree hugging movement, which was to inspire, in time, many such eco-groups by helping to slow down the rapid deforestation, expose vested interests, increase ecological awareness, and demonstrate the viability of people power.”

As often happens, those opposed to imposing restrictions on the logging industry, or any other industry or activity that threatens the environment, denigrated the activists by calling them “tree huggers.” Some people claimed that tree huggers were nothing but unwashed, longhaired, liberals who wore tie-dye, beads, and sandals and preached peace, love, and save the world.

Laura Vogel was not one of those people.

After earning a degree in wildlife biology from New Mexico State University and a graduate degree from the University of Utah, Vogel taught at Mayfield High School in Las Cruces, Rio Rancho High in the 2001-02 school year, and at Rio Rancho Mid-High through the spring of 2008 before relocating to Maui. A passionate environmentalist, she believed the way to improve and protect the quality of our natural environment was through changes to environmentally harmful human activities. As a teacher, she also believed the best way to bring about those changes was through education. In 2003, she and several Mid-High students formed the first Rio Rancho Tree Huggers Club.

When Rio Rancho’s V. Sue Cleveland High School opened in 2009, biology teacher Debra Loftin decided to reestablish the Tree Huggers Club in honor of Vogel who disappeared in Hawaii on February 21, 2010. “Laura understood that if we don’t keep our young people connected to our environment, we won’t have a voting base to continue having our lands and resources protected. I think bringing this club back is a way of honoring her and carrying on the important work she started.”

The main goal of the Cleveland High School Tree Huggers Club is to promote environmental awareness and conserve natural resources through student action. Some of the ways they accomplish this is by working on various projects, such as creating and flying flags on the 50th anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, celebrating Earth Day by planting native plants, establishing a student recycling program on campus, taking part in the Water Conservation & Xeriscape Conference in Albuquerque, and working with the community to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, and reduce air and water pollution created through landfilling.

Michael Carpenter, vice-president of the Placitas Recycling Association (PRA), works with volunteers from the Tree Huggers Club. “These kids are really great. They come out on Saturday mornings, staff the collection facility, help residents unload their recyclables, and even help raise funds to promote recycling. As a community-based nonprofit organization, the PRA is completely staffed by volunteers, most of whom are in their 60s, so it’s wonderful to have the young people pitch in—they’re so enthusiastic and full of energy.”

Recycling has been a common practice for most of human history, with recorded advocates as far back as Plato in 400 B.C. During periods when resources were scarce, archaeological studies of ancient waste dumps show less household waste, such as ash, broken tools, and pottery, implying that more waste was being recycled in the absence of new material. In preindustrial times, there is evidence of scrap bronze and other metals being collected in Europe and melted down for reuse. In Britain, dust and ash from wood and coal fires was collected by ‘dustmen’ and down-cycled as a base material used in brick making. The main driver for these types of recycling was the economic advantage of obtaining recycled materials instead of acquiring virgin resources, as well as a lack of public waste removal in ever more densely populated areas.

Ton for ton, recycling reduces pollution, saves energy, and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions more than any other solid waste management option. Recycling reduces air and water pollution, saves natural resources, creates jobs, saves valuable space in landfills, and protects the environment. If we don’t recycle, we will eventually run out of space for all our trash.

Although only in its second year, the Cleveland High School Tree Huggers Club carries on the traditions and determination of the original Chipko “tree huggers,” as well as Laura Vogel, Debra Loftin, and Michael Carpenter. All of these environmentally conscious people, and many more like them, support the long-term flourishing of human and ecological communities through the protection of the Earth’s vitality, diversity, and beauty.

Isn’t it time we all got involved?   

It’s May, and we’re ready to plant

—Resilient Placitas

At April’s Square Foot Gardening (SFG) Workshop (indoors at the Placitas Community Library), we only heard about it—SFG, that is. Jerry Peace and Bill Carr filled two hours plus with much info about the usual way of gardening in our Placitas alkaline soils. With intensity and humor, they covered amending these soils with compost, peat moss, sulfur, iron and other minerals, and much more. They moved on to the topic of the “soil” of SFG. It’s a mix, by volume, of 1/3 compost, 1/3 sphagnum peat moss, and 1/3 vermiculite. First developed by Mel Bartholomew, this SFG mixture produces vigorous growth in plants. It also allows a maximum number of plants to grow in any given area of garden, hence the title of our April article in the Signpost: “Get more from your garden this year.”

On Saturday, May 7, from 2-4 p.m., Placitas Community Library and Resilient Placitas (RP) will host a your hands-on SFG workshop. On the library grounds, we’ve prepared a four foot by eight foot area ready to be filled in with the compost/peat moss/vermiculite mix, planted, watered, fenced in from critters, blessed, etc. Suggested donation is $5 for materials.

Please sign up at the library, our oasis of learning, at 453 NM 165, call (505) 867-3355, or contact Cosmos at (505) 217-9384 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.

Placitas Recycling Center Tip of the Month: 

The Placitas Recycling Center collects separated shredded and unshredded white and light pastel office paper, including high-quality bond, printer/copier paper, and business envelopes without cellophane windows, but NOT lined (ruled) writing paper and school note pads. Writing paper and school note pads can be recycled as mixed paper.

Las Placitas Association hike cancelled

Regrettably, the Las Placitas Association-sponsored annual Plants of the Placitas Open Space Hike, to be held on May 14 and led by Bill Dunmire, has been cancelled this year due to drought conditions resulting in so few blooming spring plants.





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