Cedar Elf Handiwork
Peine with Harley and Cedar
Do you believe in elves?
—MARGARET M. NAVA, SIGNPOST
Over the past several years, numerous reports have come in about
unusual creatures roaming the Sandia Mountains. Some people say
the creatures are tall and human in appearance, others insist they
are short and resemble elves. Seldom seen in groups larger than
two or three, it is believed these reclusive creatures live far
from human habitation in remote caves or underground dwellings and
that they sustain themselves on the green cedar trees that flourish
An elf is a creature of Norse mythology. Originally imagined as
a race of minor nature and fertility gods, elves were often pictured
as youthful-seeming men and women of great beauty living in caves
and forests. Creatures with magical powers, they were portrayed
as long-lived or immortal. For as far back as anyone can remember,
they have been around us. Shakespeare spoke of them in A Midsummer’s
Night Dream, as did Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings. Santa Claus,
of course, has his elves, as does that popular cereal that makes
noise when you add milk. So why not in New Mexico? And why not in
our cedar forests?
For most New Mexicans, the Southwestern cedar (a genus or type
of coniferous tree in the plant family Cupressacea) is a common
sight. Also known as a juniper, it spreads its beauty across the
mountains and brings a clean, crisp scent to the high desert air.
According to ancient tradition, Native American peoples regarded
it as a holy tree, a tree of sanctuary. Branches were placed upon
the hot rocks in sweat lodges and burned to purify the air and exorcise
demon spirits. Early settlers believed that if they planted a cedar
by their door, black witches were compelled to count every needle
before they could come inside. When the witches lost count, which
they always did, they had to start over. Eventually they got discouraged
and went away. Burning the aromatic blue berries was believed to
keep away bad luck and thunderbolts; smoke from burning wood and
needles was recommended to keep away infections and contagious diseases;
boiled in water, the twigs and leaves made a steam to help with
bronchitis; and a warm poultice of boiled berries was said to relieve
After spending time traveling through western Canada and the American
Southwest on his motorcycle, Joshua Peine, a former Hollywood actor,
was inexplicably drawn to New Mexico where, guided and inspired
by Hopi and Navajo lore, he began gathering the cedar tree’s
aromatic needles. Using only the young, tender tips of the branches,
he developed a unique method for curing them. He then placed the
dried needles in muslin bags and gave the fragrant packets to friends
as gifts. Before long, word got around and people started asking
for more. It was then that Peine bought some land, built his home,
and started the business he called Clear Light—the Cedar Company.
And it may have been then that he became aware of the presence of
unusual creatures living among the nearby mountains.
Even though the rumors have never been verified, it is generally
believed that these creatures, or “elves” as Joshua
called them, were the driving force behind his business. The elves
came out from their dwellings only when the weather was just right,
the cedar branches were at their finest and the moon was in its
proper lunar phase. Using special golden shears, they trimmed the
pale green tips of the cedars, dried them in secret silos and then
spent endless days and nights bagging, stamping, and wrapping the
exotic sachets of essence. Eventually, they created lotions, mists,
incense, and other items that evoked memories of cool mountainsides,
wind whistling through the trees, mountain cabins, crackling fires,
and special friends.
Thirty-seven years after the small muslin packets first began appearing
on shelves, people from all around the world are still enjoying
the heady scent of New Mexico green cedar. Vacationers, housewives,
movie stars, and Egyptian royalty are all familiar with its intoxicating
fragrance. And although they may not understand the magic behind
the cedar elves‘ handiwork, they can’t help but admit
something (or someone) truly unique was at work here.
Joshua Peine died on December 29, 2006. An extraordinary and genuine
man, he was fond of telling people he “believed in the cedar.”
One can only wonder if he isn’t now walking through the mountains
with his beloved cedar elves.
If you believe in cedar elves, you can visit them during the “Christmas
at Clear Light“ juried artist show on Saturday and Sunday,
November 22 and 23 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Refreshments, admission,
and parking are free. Clear Light is nestled high in Placitas at
686 State Road 165, seven miles east of I-25, exit 242. Watch for
the red signs or log on to www.clcedar.com
for more information.
Rio Rancho Soccer Club awarded grant for
The Rio Rancho Soccer Club just proved that when a tight-knit community
comes together, it can accomplish big things—in this case,
a $2,500 grant from Liberty Mutual Insurance to help them offset
the costs of running a youth sports organization.
Rio Rancho parents, coaches, and club officials earned the grant
through a grassroots effort to get as many community members as
possible to complete an online quiz on sports mentoring. The quiz
comes from the Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports Program, an online
community found at www.responsiblesports.com that helps adults maximize
the positive role they play in young athletes’ lives, through
helpful blogs, videos, and curriculum. The program is a partnership
between Liberty Mutual, Positive Coaching Alliance, and a number
of national youth sport organizations, including U.S. Youth Soccer.
“The Responsible Sports Program helped our soccer club in
two ways,” said Rio Rancho Soccer Club president Matt Geisel.
“One, the grant from Liberty Mutual will allow us to invest
in the future of our club. Two, by encouraging hundreds of Rio Rancho
parents and coaches to learn about positive sports mentoring, we’ve
created a true alliance on the sidelines. Having parents and coaches
on the same page will lead to a fun, constructive learning environment
for our kids.”
Each completed quiz counted for one point, and at nearly 260 points,
Rio Rancho Soccer was among an elite group of twenty youth organizations
across the country that completed enough quizzes to win the $2,500
Since its creation last year, the Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports
Program has provided $100,000 in community grants to youth sports
organizations across the U.S. These grants have helped pay for new
equipment and uniforms, renovations to practice facilities, scholarships
that cover league costs for children in need, and—in one case—a
team bus for traveling to and from games!
Starting on December 1, parents, coaches, and children can nominate
a local youth sports coach for a Responsible Coaching Award and
$250 gift card from Liberty Mutual, to help with the costs of running
a team. Those interested can visit www.responsiblesports.com.
NMED Issues “Boil Water Alert” for
Placitas West Water Co-Op in Sandoval County
—THE NEW MEXICO ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT
The New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) Drinking Water
Bureau advised the Placitas West Water Co-Op in Sandoval County
to issue a “boil water advisory” for its water system.
NMED issued the advisory today after bacteriological contamination
that exceeded the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for E. coli was
discovered in drinking water. NMED requires the Placitas West Water
Co-Op, a water system located in Sandoval County about 10 miles
east of the Town of Bernalillo, to notify its consumers of the finding.
This advisory only applies to the customers of the Placitas West
Water Co-op and does not extend to any of the other surrounding
Placitas water systems.
Customers of the water system are advised to boil water for five
minutes before drinking, cooking and dishwashing.
The presence of E. coli in water indicates that the water may
have been in contact with sewage or animal wastes, and could contain
disease-causing organisms. Most strains of E. coli are harmless
and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals. However,
a positive test for E. coli in the drinking water supply may indicate
the presence of dangerous strains of E. coli or other disease-causing
organisms, which are sometimes found in sewage or animal wastes.
These types of organisms may cause severe gastrointestinal illness
and, in rare cases, even death. Children, the elderly and immuno-compromised
individuals are at an increased risk for illness.
Actions have been initiated to disinfect the water system and
identify possible sources of contamination, establish acceptable
disinfection, and flush out the water system. The Drinking Water
Bureau will continue to provide assistance to the water system and
will test the water until no further threat of contamination remains.
For more information, call NMED Communications Director Marissa
Stone at (505) 827-0314 or (505) 231-0475 or Patrick Akin from the
NMED-Drinking Water Bureau at (505) 222-9532.
Blessings Day project update
The Optimist de Sandoval Club’s “Blessings Day”
project has moved and is now under the umbrella of the St. Vincent
de Paul Society‘s tax-deductible 501(c) 3 status. They have
partnered this year with the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, which
will enable the club to reach more families in need.
Over the past six years, the project has grown from helping twenty
families to helping over fifty families. Last year with kind donations,
the Blessings Day project was able to feed, clothe, and gift over
fifty families. This year, with the economic crisis, they expect
to receive more requests for help. Generous donations from the community
at large, which include Placitas Realty, La Puerta Realty, Rio Sierra
Realty, and many other individual donors, keep the program alive.
This holiday season, the organizers of the project hope that your
organization can help by providing donations, a gift certificate,
or goods to meet the needs of families who live in Bernalillo, Placitas,
Rio Rancho, Algodones, and the greater part of the Sandoval County
area. There are slips at The Merc and T & T to purchase a turkey
for the Blessings Day project.
The Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department, Jardineras de Placitas,
the Rotary Club, San Antonio Mission, Las Placitas Presbyterian
Church, and others are pledging their help. We hope you or your
organization can join us in this effort.
If you have any questions, contact Frances Stephens at 867-3077
or Nancy Hawks at 771-4931.
The crushing of the grapes is a wine making tradition
that takes place before the grape harvest. In this case before the
Members from Santa Ana Pueblo can’t help
but to smile as they participate in a crush marking the opening
of the new wine bar at The Prairie Star Restaurant
The Prairie Star Restaurant, located at Santa Ana Pueblo, has completed
a nearly $260,000 renovation and expansion of the new Prairie Star
Wine Bar. Boasting the largest wine-by-the-glass program in the
state, the wine bar houses a new $20,000 Winekeeper cruvinet, an
inert gas-propelled wine preservation and dispensing system, that
delivers 46 different varieties of wine. There are over 500 wines
available by the bottle, 60 by the glass, and the cellar currently
houses some 2,000 bottles.
“The concept of the wine bar was being discussed years ago,”
said Shane Clark, director of food and beverage for the Santa Ana
Golf Corp. “Our goal was to maximize views and keep it from
affecting the dining room,” where patrons can “enjoy
the view, the wine, and relax.” The room includes a 20-foot
oak bar that encircles the cruvinet, an outdoor patio, and will
seat 60 people.
Samuel McFall, sommelier at Prairie Star restaurant since 1995,
received the certificate of Court of Masters Sommeliers in 2001.
His passion for wine has been instrumental in the new wine bar’s
efforts to provide the most extensive and complete wine program
in the state. His wine list has garnered the Wine Spectator Award
of Excellence from 1994 to the present as well as awards from the
Santa Fe/Northern New Mexico Branch of the International Wine and
“It is our goal to demystify wine by offering simple, understandable
explanations about where and how it is made, and providing the opportunity
to sample wines typically considered too expensive. In addition,
our Cellar Treasures by the Glass selections showcase the world’s
rarest and most sought-after wines, matured in our own cellar. Those
are the types of wines many of our guests say they never thought
they would have the opportunity to taste,” said McFall. “Our
goal is to make great wines of the world available to everyone,
while debunking the arrogant stereotypes associated with wine bars,
wineries and upper-echelon restaurant wine programs.”
The wine bar also offers a full tapas menu with a variety of appetizers
ranging between skewered beef tenderloin and tempura of ahi tuna.
It is open between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.
The Prairie Star Wine Bar has established a new benchmark for
local wine lovers, whether you’re enjoying a glass of 1995
Altesino Brunello di Montalcino, “Montosoli,” with someone
special, or just gazing at the breathtaking views of the Santa Ana
Golf Course, Bosque, and the Sandia Mountains. I believe W.B. Yeats
may have said it best in his poem:
A DRINKING SONG
Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.
Delicious pumpkin pie made easy
—FRANCIE ZELLER, THE MERC
Since most people have limited time, there are ways to cheat on
almost every recipe. When making a pumpkin pie, I recommend using
a store-bought pie crust. The frozen pre-formed or the flat refrigerated
ones are just fine. While we all love that flaky texture from pie
crust, pumpkin pie is so moist that you will never get that flaky
texture, no matter what. Do, however, pre-bake your pie shell to
a light golden-brown color.
You can use almost any pumpkin pie recipe. The one on the can is
fine. I like to doctor it up just a bit. By adding the molasses,
bourbon, and two additional egg yolks, you’ll have a richer,
darker pie. A cream cheese swirl on the top will make your pie unique
and extra tasty!
2 cups canned pumpkin puree
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbs. molasses
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cloves
1 cup heavy cream or condensed milk
3 Tbs. bourbon
1 - 2 egg yolks
2 packs of cream cheese (room temperature)
3 Tbs. bourbon
3 Tbs. cream or canned milk
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
3 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar
Beat together all the topping ingredients until creamy and smooth.
You will need to save this and place in a pastry bag. Heat oven
to 425 degrees.
Whisk together all the pie mix ingredients except the eggs in a
medium saucepan. Place over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally
until bubbling. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in eggs one
at a time. Pour filling into pie shell and place on a baking sheet.
Working quickly, pipe the cream cheese in a circle motion, starting
at the center. You’ll need the cream cheese to stay on the
top. Work from the center and finish around the border of the pie.
When complete, drag the point of a paring knife through the piping.
Starting in the center, follow a line to the end. Repeat all the
way around, spacing two inches apart. The result will be a spider
web design on the top of the pie.
At the higher heat, 450 degrees, bake for ten minutes, and then
lower heat to 350 degrees. Turn pie around so it will bake evenly.
Bake thirteen to fifteen minutes longer, but start to check the
pie after eight minutes and every minute thereafter.
A custard pie will set up quickly. Check by jiggling the pie slightly.
Mixture should be puffed up and set around the perimeter but still
wobbly in the center. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for
at least one hour before serving. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.
This Thanksgiving, we will offer a free medium-size turkey to anyone
spending $100 or more at the Merc. The quantity is limited (until
supplies last), so again, I would not wait until the last minute.
If customers buy all of our side dishes and pies, all they have
to do is roast the turkey. And they can even take the credit for
all my cooking. I really don’t mind!