On the Road August 2019

(Story by Sharon Niederman/Photograph by Geraint Smith)

August—the widest open time of the year, as abbreviating daylight hours of hot sun and deliciously cooled monsoon afternoons flit past with the quick grace of New Mexico swallowtails. The last bloom of the roses, the most glorious, shows off its vibrant colors in the garden. Our favorite scent—roasting chile—pervades farmers’ markets and roadside stands, reminding us it’s once again time to provision for the next season coming our way. Mornings are cooler now.

But before the summer transforms into fall, let’s make the most of our good fortune of living right here, right now.

Northeast

You need some quality stargazing in your summer. Capulin Volcano National Monument in Folsom, named a Gold Tier Dark Sky venue, is holding Astronomy Nights Aug. 3 and Aug. 24. Rangers bring out the high-powered telescopes and lend their knowledge of the heavens. Be sure to bring snacks, and you’ll need warm clothes and a blanket. These are seriously some of the darkest skies in the lower 48, and the stars are beyond imagining. 575.278.2201.

And how about dancing under the stars to the Rifters one summer night? The Cleveland Roller Mill holds its annual benefit dance Aug. 10, 4-10 p.m., at mile-marker 31.5, NM 518, in Cleveland. This is a popular camping-out event, and the potluck is superb. Clevelandrollermillmuseum.org.

Colfax County Fair! Put on your boots and prepare to get them dusty. The Colfax County Fair & Rodeo, with BBQ, cakewalk, adorable animals and quilts, will take you back to the roots of what fair-time is all about. It’s just the right size and everyone is happy to see you there. Aug. 5-11, Springer Fairgrounds, 575.445.8017.

Celebrating Artistic Director Ida Kavafian’s 35th season, Music from Angel Fire presents an exhilarating series of concerts throughout Northern New Mexico from Aug 16-Sept. 1, plus numerous art and dining special events. Somehow, Music from Angel Fire is always in tune with the summer evening mood, creating uplifting evenings to savor. Musicfromangelfire.org.

Northwest

People ask me what is my favorite New Mexico event. While it’s not possible to answer that question, certainly high on my list—the event that really makes me come alive—is the Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, a gathering of tribes from throughout the hemisphere, with pow wow, rodeo, exhibitions and so much more. Don’t pass up the chance for grilled mutton and green chile on fry bread. This year is the event’s 98th, taking place downtown Gallup and Red Rock Park, Aug. 2-11. If time is short, the one can’t-miss event is the parade, Aug. 10 at 10 a.m., downtown. Gallupceremonial.com.

Southeast

Hooray! The Shaffer Hotel in Mountainair has re-opened! First opened in 1924 by jack-of-all-trades Clem Pop Shaffer, this incarnation of the landmark has a café and gallery up and running, with hotel rooms in the offing. Two of New Mexico’s most fantastic folk-art displays are on the premises—the Art Deco dining room ceiling, painted by Pop in the same primary colors he used to paint cars he repaired, and the fence beside the hotel inlaid with Pop’s fantastic imaginary creatures. 505.847.2888 (check hours on Facebook before you go timing seems a bit fluid at this point).

And you may want to check out the delightful Mountainair Sunflower Festival, with music, food, arts, crafts and treasures, held Aug. 24, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Manzanomountainartcouncil.org/sunflowerfestival.html.

The Las Cruces Harvest Wine Festival, Aug. 31- Sept. 2 held at Southern New Mexico State Fairgrounds, 12125 Robert Larson Blvd., is one of the very best places to taste vintages from wineries around the state. Music, food trucks and big fun. Looks like some good discounts on early bird tickets. Nmwine.com.

Southwest

Although I’ve been to Lincoln, this is the year I finally discovered this mile-long town of beautifully preserved history. The Wortley Hotel 1881, once owned by Pat Garrett, has all the romance of the Old West, plus great hospitality, coffee on the front porch and a stupendous breakfast, and the brewery across the street, Bonito Valley Brewing Company, is the place to stay up until the wee hours listening to tales of Billy the Kid. Old Lincoln Days, held this year Aug. 2-4, presents The Last Escape of Billy the Kid from the Lincoln County Courthouse. If Billy returned, he would absolutely recognize the place. Nothing has changed. 505.681.4014.

Believing in Our Past: Allan Affeldt & Las Vegas, Lamy, Winslow

(Story by Lynn Cline / Photographs by Douglas Merriam

It requires a rare vision to bring history back to life, restoring treasured pieces of the past to their full glory. It’s a sixth sense really, and it has guided entrepreneur Allan Affeldt on a remarkable journey, restoring abandoned hotels that once stood as magnificent symbols of America’s mighty railroad era. Along the way, he has helped revitalize communities, transforming people and places with his visionary projects.

“There are beautiful things everywhere that need to be saved,” Allan says in a recent interview. “In every case, someone has to take a leap of faith.” Allan took his first leap of faith in Winslow, Ariz., restoring La Posada, the last great American railroad hotel, designed for the Fred Harvey Company by pioneering architect Mary Colter. As Fred Harvey’s principal designer, Colter created La Posada in the style of a grand hacienda, with lush gardens, secluded courtyards and gorgeous public spaces adorned with antiques. In operation from 1930 to 1957, La Posada drew some of the biggest luminaries of the day, from Clark Gable and Carole Lombard to Howard Hughes, Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein and many others.

After La Posada closed, the building fell into disrepair, ending up on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s endangered list, where Allan discovered it and decided to try and save it from the wrecking ball. In 1993, he put aside the dissertation he was writing on cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine and he and his wife, artist Tina Mion, drove to Winslow, where they found their future.

“It was Mary Colter’s masterpiece and it was about to be torn down,” Allan says. “For me, it wasn’t about the railroad or Fred Harvey. It was about saving La Posada, the most important building of America’s most important woman architect.… The building itself was so achingly beautiful. It was like a temple that had been desecrated. The railroad had gutted the building, and turned it into offices. You could tell, though, in the same way that someone who reads poetry for 20 years recognizes a poem. You could see what it was. You could see what it could be.”

And so Allan purchased La Posada, an 80,000-square-foot hotel on 20 acres, for $156,000—just the cost of the land—from the Santa Fe Railway. He devoted three years to working out the financial, legal and environmental hurdles to his $12-million plan to restore Colter’s majestic hotel. In 1997, he and Tina moved in to the Winslow hotel and re-opened its doors to the public. Today, the historic property is considered one of America’s most beautiful hotels. The Turquoise Room, the hotel’s revered restaurant run by renowned Chef John Sharpe, takes its name from the private dining car Colter designed for the Super Chief in 1936.

Allan’s second leap of faith landed him in Las Vegas, N.M., the home of La Castañeda, the first trackside hotel for the Fred Harvey Company and the site of the 1899 reunion of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders after the Spanish-American War. The luxurious Mission Revival-style mansion, the only property designed by renowned Pasadena architect Frederick Roehrig for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, opened in 1899. The 40,000-square-foot hotel and restaurant, the prototype of almost every Harvey House built thereafter, closed in 1948 and then quickly declined. Despite the hotel’s dilapidated state, Allan saw a national treasure.

“Tina and I came out to Las Vegas in 2000 to see the Castañeda and Montezuma,” Allan recalls. “Las Vegas was the only place with two remaining Harvey hotels.” The Montezuma Hotel, which opened in 1882, became part of United World College in 1981. But the Castañeda was then owned by a local couple who ran it as a bar and were trying to sell the rundown property for $2.5 million. Many phone calls with the owners’ realtor took place across a full decade before Allan and Tina were able to purchase the hotel for $450,000. They then spent $5 million restoring the hotel with a team of 50 local artisans, opening it as the Castaneda this April, complete with a handsome historic saloon and a restaurant, Kin, helmed by acclaimed Chef Sean Sinclair. “It’s the only project ever in New Mexico to receive historic and new markets tax credits,” Allan says. “It was very complicated. Just the financing took three years.”

The day after the Castaneda deal closed on April 8, 2014, locals turned out to celebrate and to shake Allan’s hand in gratitude, according to an Associated Press story. Some people declared Allan’s purchase and plans to restore the old hotel as the best thing to happen to this old Wild West town. Allan is on track to prove them right, having also purchased the Plaza Hotel—known as the Belle of the Southwest when it opened in 1882—and restored it to rightful splendor. The Plaza Hotel’s restaurant is one of Albuquerque’s landmark Range Cafés, now with six locations across New Mexico.

“With the Plaza and the Castaneda, here’s this incredible historical legacy and nobody knows about it,” Allan says. “Las Vegas had a poor reputation in the ’70s and ’80s, but it has an authenticity that has gone in so many places. People in New Mexico didn’t know about the Las Vegas legacy. They didn’t know the Castañeda was a great hotel or that Montezuma was the greatest hot springs resort in the West. By saving the Castañeda and revitalizing the Plaza Hotel, we hope to restore the reputation of the town.”

So how did a graduate student in semantics end up with a passion for historic preservation and reviving struggling communities? “I was always interested in architecture,” Allan says. “Design was my thing. I grew up in Orange County in Southern California. My father was in the tile business. We always had Architectural Digest around, and it was one of the things I enjoyed reading.” Allan also had an interest in international relations and enjoyed a vibrant career as co-producer with Bill Graham of Moscow’s Concert for Peace in 1987, and of international peace walks to end the Cold War. It was during on one of those peace walks, in the Ukraine, that he met his American wife.

Today, Allan and Tina collaborate and consult, selecting colors and making other design decisions for their hotels. Tina’s oil paintings are permanently displayed at La Posada, Castaneda and the Plaza Hotel, as well as in collections around the world, including the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The couple makes their home in Sedona, Ariz., but Tina has a studio in Winslow, and will soon have one in Castaneda, and they also have residences in La Posada and the Plaza Hotel.

Allan juggles many components with his work—raising money, negotiating bureaucratic labyrinths, dealing with the complexity of construction and reviving railroad towns. “These buildings were the center of their communities,” he says. “When La Posada closed down, in an important way so did Winslow, because it lost its sense of place, lost its heritage, lost its pride. By the time we got there, it was an abandoned railroad town. Before Tina and I came to see it, we had looked at pictures of Colter’s work and La Posada was by far her greatest. After 20 years, we’re still making improvements. Last year, we renovated the train station and added on to it as an art and history complex.”

To aid in Winslow’s revival, Allan bought and restored the town’s old movie theater and even ran for mayor. He was elected not once, but twice. Broader change came as investors began buying downtown properties and fixing them up. In New Mexico, Allan is expanding to other railroad towns, buying the historic Legal Tender Saloon in Lamy. Cafe Fina’s Murphy O’Brien and his nephew Rory O’Brien will run the soon-to-open restaurant and plans are afoot to bring back railroad service to Lamy from Santa Fe. Each of Allan’s projects are designed around a love for rail travel in these overlooked towns and an enthusiasm for America’s past.

“It’s historic revival,” Allan says. “It’s economic development. If you don’t have a business model for restoring these buildings, they’re just going to fail again. It’s aesthetics on a fundamental level. The most significant contribution we can make in the Southwest is tying these railroad towns together. We want to give people an authentic experience of the great railroad era. At the turn of the 19th century, the railroads were the biggest business in the country. Nobody from our generation ever really experienced that. There are these testaments to commerce, like the railyards in Albuquerque—a commercial industrial space that even now, as a magnificent ruin, is a temple of light. What we know from La Posada is that there is a business model and we can save these buildings and, in a really fundamental way, we can save these communities.”

On the Road

Photo by Geraint Smith

(Story by Sharon Niederman)

Itching for adventure? It’s road-trip high season. Don’t be too busy, or you’ll miss it. Summer is just beginning, but we know how fast it flies by.

Northeast

Raton is the place for a glorious, old-fashioned Fourth of July at the Santa Fe Trail International Balloon Rally, July 4-6, with liftoff at 6:30 a.m. July 5 at La Mesa Airfield. Admission is free. As hometown as can be, the event begins with the Kiwanis Club pancake breakfast. If you love the sight of bright balloons aloft on a crisp morning, but could do with a smaller crowd, this is the place—not to mention the refreshing temperatures of northeastern New Mexico and the blooming wildflowers at Sugarite Canyon State Park. Kick back, go fishing at Maloya Lake, hike the in-town Climax Canyon Nature Trail, which was declared a National Recreation Trail by the National Park Service. The Fourth brings an all-day celebration on Historic 1st Street, with live music, vendors and big-wow fireworks. More at ratonmainstreet.org.

Or do the Fourth in Eagle Nest, with a parade, a Volunteer Fire Department mid-day BBQ, and dazzling fireworks over Eagle Nest Lake. July 6 is great fun, too: the Nashville to New Mexico Country-Western acoustic sounds of Billy Dawson ring out at Eagle Nest Lake State Park. Call 575.377.2420.

Northwest

If you haven’t visited Purple Adobe Lavender Farm in Abiquiu, the 10th Annual Lavender in the Valley Festival, July 13-14, is your opportunity. This year’s theme is Mardi Gras in July, with Dixieland and gypsy jazz from the Shiners Cub Jazz Band. Chef Carmen Rodriguez of MiSanta and Santa Fe YouthWorks Catering dish up this party, and you can pick your own lavender from the 15 varieties growing here. This little piece of heaven includes the Lavender Tea House, serving lavender tea and scones, and the Lavender Shoppe is stocked with dozens of locally produced, exquisite self- and home-care products to splurge on. Admission is $5. Visit purpleadobelavenderfarm.com.

Southeast

Here’s a happy birthday party for you: July 20 marks Judy Chicago’s big Eight-Oh with the grand opening of her and photographer husband and partner Donald Woodman’s Through the Flower Art Space at 107 Becker Ave. in Belen. Reservations are a must. And Judy creates a special fireworks show, to boot. Plus, the entire weekend of July 20-21 is dedicated to the kickoff of the Belen Arts District. On July 21, corks are popping with a special vintage in the tasting room of Jaramillo Vineyards, 114 Becker Ave., and from noon-2 p.m., the Judy Chicago Wine Release Party comes in both red and white: complex, piquant and exhilarating. Visit throughtheflower.org or holdmyticket.com.

You may not get to Tucumcari every day. But next time you’re exploring Route 66 and cruising that way, visit Tucumcari Ranch Supply, 502 S. Lake St., tucranchsupply.com, for a heaping plate of Watsons BBQ. Not only are Jimmy and Stella Watson dishing up brisket and ribs of your dreams, they are the friendliest, most fun-loving hosts you’ll find on your travels. And they’ll insist you sample their green chile-apple cobbler—who could refuse?

This year at the July 5-7 UFO Festival in Roswell, tours of the 1947 crash site will be offered, and with UFO sightings in the news, the tour ought to be especially provocative. You probably don’t want to miss the July 6 Alien Costume and Cosplay contest either, with the Alien Pet Costume Contest on the Courthouse lawn. Plus, on the evening of July 4, the city puts on a free Billy Ray Cyrus concert at 1612 West College Blvd. Visit ufofestivalroswell.org.

Southwest

July 12-14 means the Magdalena Old Timers Reunion. With a dozen galleries, half a dozen cafes and an all-out interesting blend of inhabitants, Magdalena, also known as the “Trail’s End,” has got to be one of the liveliest, most welcoming small towns in the state. Old timers head to town with their tallest tales this weekend—plus the rodeo, a fiddlers contest, mini-cattle drive, art and food. Check out magdalena-nm.com or call 575.854.2261.

July 4-7, take in Mescalero Apache Ceremonial Dances & Rodeo at Mescalero Ceremonial Grounds near Ruidoso. Each day features a rodeo with bull riding, barrel racing, calf roping and more. Other activities include the Mescalero Apache Fire Rescue Challenge Run on July 6, with a 5k walk and 5k/10k run, and the 39th Annual Mescalero Celebration Parade on the 7th. Native American arts and crafts, traditional and modern games and free lunch and dinner will also be available. Ceremonial dances include kenalda, the maidens’ coming of age dances. Admission rings in at $3 for children and $7 for adults. Rodeo admission is $5 for the kids, and $12 for adults. Call 575.464.4494.

The Big Ride Comes to Santa Fe

(Story by Melyssa Holik/Photos by McCall Sides and Jackson Buscher)

This June, Santa Fe will join the international community of cyclists as host to the worldwide bicycling event known as Gran Fondo New York. Santa Fe is only the second city in the U.S. to hold this honor. A Gran Fondo is a term for ultra-long-distance bike races (the Italian phrase translates to “big ride”) and is the bicycling equivalent of a marathon. The Gran Fondo New York series of races is the largest global series of this type of event: 20 races, with up to 5,000 riders competing in each one. The series was founded in New York in 2010, and each year, races are held in global locations as diverse as Italy, Argentina, Indonesia, Jerusalem and the Philippines to name just a few—but until this year, there have been no other U.S. events besides the annual New York ride.

According to Mike McCalla, the director of GFNY Santa Fe, the event has been a couple of years in the making. It all began in 2018, when several members of the Santa Fe bicycling community approached the city with the idea to bring GFNY to the City Different. Local cyclist Jake Rodar became interested in creating the Gran Fondo Santa Fe event after riding the GFNY in Cozumel, Mexico. Last fall, Jake, Mike and Mellow Velo owner David Bell applied for a grant from the City of Santa Fe Tourism Department. They won the grant, which allowed them to form a nonprofit to oversee and organize GFNY Santa Fe.

Now, one year later, GFNY Santa Fe is ready for its inaugural year. The event will begin with an expo on June 21 and 22 at the Scottish Rite Temple. The expo will include food from Cowgirl BBQ, beer and spirits from Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery, and booths for bike companies and local vendors. Those who have purchased VIP passes are also invited to a very special Friday night Food and Wine Experience at The Compound Restaurant which avid cyclist and chef, Mark Kiffin will host.

The big ride begins June 23. At 7 a.m., more than 400 riders from all over the world will gather in the Santa Fe Plaza. Clad in GFNY green, riders will set out en mass during the crisp early morning hours to compete to be the North America champion—it should be quite a sight to see.

Racers can participate in a 55-mile Medium course or the 81-mile Long course. Both courses showcase Santa Fe’s breathtaking scenery as riders traverse the multiple climate zones and terrains of the high desert southwest. The 81-mile Long course includes a grueling 7,500 feet of vertical climb, and what Mike McCalla categorizes as “the toughest finish” out of all the GFNY events. The final 15 miles are all uphill, making it the longest continuous climb out of the series. GFNY Santa Fe is also the second highest altitude race in the series after Columbia, finishing up in the thin mountain air at about 10,300 feet above sea level.

The Santa Fe event represents a contrast to the New York race, too; aside from being the only U.S. races in the series, the two locations are complete opposites. In many ways, Santa Fe is different than most of the other venues, which is part of what gives the event a unique appeal. Mike suspects that may be why the GFNY organizers welcomed Santa Fe’s participation. “Santa Fe adds diversity to the lineup of races in GFNY,” Mike explains. “And New Mexico is a fantastic place for cycling. There’s low traffic density, plenty of sunshine and beautiful terrain.” He also notes that GFNY Santa Fe represents an opportunity to “show off the best of Santa Fe” to the visitors who come for the race. That includes our food, culture and natural splendor, as well as the area’s outstanding biking and hiking trails.

After they’ve completed the punishing race, riders will gather once more for lunch and the awards ceremony. In blissful exhaustion, riders can celebrate the challenge they’ve just shared over a round of drinks and indulge in some well-earned revelry.

“It’ll be a lot of fun, and something new to Santa Fe,” Mike says. “We’re looking to showcase Santa Fe as not just an arts and culture destination but as an outdoor destination as well.” Randy Randall, executive director of TOURISM Santa Fe, says that’s one reason why the city awarded the grant to GFNY Santa Fe. He says while Santa Fe has long been known as a center of history, culture and food, it’s still under the radar as a place for outdoor recreation. Randy wants that to change. “It’s time,” he says. “This is the next thing for us to promote.” While New Mexico is often overshadowed by Colorado and Utah in terms of outdoor tourism, Randy says, “We’re next.”

Tourism offices all over the state are developing this avenue for attracting visitors in an effort to set the state apart from our neighbors. Randy credits some of the increased attention to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s newly established Outdoor Recreation Division. “There’s more emphasis on it now,” Randy says. “We’re trying to build the outdoor recreation side of Santa Fe as yet another reason to come.” With an annual race like Gran Fondo New York, Randy is optimistic people will begin to see our city as a world-class outdoor destination. As he says, “Affiliation with GFNY puts Santa Fe into an elite class.”

This is an elite race and there will be extraordinary athletes participating, to be sure, but the race is open to anyone who wants to push their limits and measure their own abilities. As Mike says, “During the event, you’re racing other people, but you’re really just challenged by the course and the satisfaction of doing all that—the entire ride—on your own power.” For Mike, nothing else compares. “You can see the world on a bike,” he says. “A lot of things are fun about it: the group dynamics of riding in a pack, the thrill of speed and endorphins, and you can eat a lot of food after! It’s a really good lifelong sport. It’s something you can do when you’re young or old.” In a testament to that lifetime appeal of cycling, GFNY Santa Fe will have awards for age groups from teens to 75 and over; it truly is a sport for all ages.

Even if you aren’t up for the challenge of an 81-, or even a 55-mile bike ride, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the event. The expo on Friday and Saturday is for racers and non-racers, and of course, anyone can be a spectator to the race on Sunday (provided you want to wake up to watch the 7 a.m. start!) or, if you’d like to see the race a little more closeup, there are many volunteer opportunities available as well—everything from packet stuffing, to manning an aid station, to being a motorcycle marshal. (Bicycling experience is not necessary to participate as a volunteer.) However you choose to be involved, Mike says, “I really hope you come out and see the inaugural event.”

Whether you are an elite cyclist hoping to test yourself against top global athletes in the field, or you simply enjoy the inspiration of watching people push themselves to their physical limits, it’s undeniable that GFNY Santa Fe represents an opportunity for our capital city. It’s a chance for Santa Fe to catapult itself into the realm of world-class outdoor recreation destinations—a distinction most locals would agree has been a long time coming.

For more information and to register, visit gfnysantafe.com.

On the Road June 2019

(Story by Sharon Niederman/Photo by Geraint Smith)

The sweetest two words in the English language? Summer afternoon. So said author Henry James, and who dares disagree? Picnic season is officially here, and fair New Mexico abounds with opportunities to partake of a basket of delectables beneath the bluest skies and the starriest nights.

Northeast

Big doings at Castañeda Hotel in Las Vegas: Chef Sean Sinclair has officially opened Bar Castañeda from 3-10 p.m. every day but Sunday, with a “slew of tacos” and a sensational smash burger to accompany your adult beverage of choice. And his Kin restaurant is poised for a “late June” opening as of press time, presenting a chef’s tasting menu that will change weekly. Visit castanedahotel.org.

With more than 40 hot-air balloons, and all the glowing color we love about balloon fiestas, plus chairlift rides, Balloons Over Angel Fire lifts off over the Moreno Valley June 14-16. Sail over to balloonsoverangelfire.com.

Is your inner mountain man or gal yearning to get out? The Annual Santa Fe Trail Rendezvous will be held June 9-15, sponsored by the NRA Whittington Center in Raton. Experience re-creation of the pre-1840s mountain man fur trade era on the Santa Fe Trail. Period dress required in camp after 6 pm. Cooking and costume contests include a period dress contest, an authentic cooking contest, a primitive camp contest, a dessert-cooking contest, and the ma and pa egg-cooking contest. Admission is free. Head to crazycrow.com.

Northwest

Celebrate the Summer Solstice with a sunrise observation at Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec. This free program begins at 5:30 a.m. June 21-22 and includes a ranger-led program on solar alignment and its importance within the Ancestral Puebloan culture. Visit nps.gov or call 505.334.6174 for details.

And what dad wouldn’t love a trip on the rock train for Father’s Day? The popular Cumbres & Toltec Geology Train offers morning tour departures from Antonito, Colo., and Chama June 16. The 64-mile journey is led by Peter W. Lipman, emeritus scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey. Lunch is included in ticket price. Sounds like a blast! Chugga-chugga on over to cumbrestoltec.com.

If you haven’t been out to Inscription Rock in a while, you may be surprised by all the activity at El Morro on N.M. 53. Love, love Ancient Way Café’s homecooking, especially the house-made pastrami Reuben sandwich and scrumptious desserts, plus the coffee next door at Inscription Rock Trading Post and zany Meow Wolf-style art at Old School Gallery. The cafe is part of the El Morro RV Park and Cabin’s complex, elmorro-nm.com. A highly recommended Sunday drive.

Southwest

Following its extensive renovation and two-year closure, Western New Mexico University’s Fleming Hall in Silver City re-opened in May. This campus museum is the home of the NAN Ranch Collection—the largest and most complete collection of prehistoric Mimbres materials excavated from a single site, and the home of the largest, permanent, interpretative exhibition of Mimbres pottery and artifacts in the world. Admission is free.

I’m still crazy after all these years about the Black Range Lodge Bed & Breakfast in Kingston. Those massive stone walls have housed miners and cavalry and hold stories a-plenty. Breakfast features preserves and baked goods made with fruit raised in the orchard and eggs from chickens clucking out back. Owner Catherine Wanek has created an otherworldly destination getaway deep in the heart of New Mexico on the edge of the Gila National Forest. This summer’s Starlight Concert series adds to the delight. On June 15, singer/songwriter Randy Granger performs with Native American flute, percussion and guitar. Picnics are encouraged; concert begins at 7 p.m. Wine and beer are available from Black Range Vineyards. More at blackrangelodge.com.

Southeast

If you’re heading south, don’t miss the Arrey Cafe, maybe the most inconspicuous eatery you ever saw, in a doublewide in Arrey, 25 miles south of Truth or Consequences. You know when they bring out the squeeze bottle of salsa and loaded basket of fresh chips this is going to be good. Farmers and field workers are feasting on local beans and chile. Green chile cheeseburger or chile rellenos? That is a tough call. There are fresh donuts every morning and a Friday night ribeye special. After lunch, you can follow N.M. 187 down along the Rio Grande through the chile fields all the way to Las Cruces. Find Arrey Cafe on Facebook.

The Rio Grande runs through it. Only an hour south of Albuquerque, off I-25 exit 169, the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, the state’s largest, has four biomes—desert, prairie, shrub and woodland—as well as five miles of riparian area and eight miles of trails, from easy to challenging. Go early, because shade is minimal, and that’s also when you can see the Gambel’s quail and roadrunners and enjoy maximum serenity. Forever views of mountains and desert landscapes. Free. Visit fws.gov.

Feel free to send me suggestions about the places you love at sherites@swcp.com. See you on the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SE – Rocking Route 66 Jun 27, Tucumcari

White Sands- tour of Lake Lucero

Seviletta tours?

 

Malandro Farm, the Second Generation

(Story by Lynn Cline/Photos by Douglas Merriam)

Up in Abiquiú, beneath the northern slopes of the Jemez Mountains and ancient towering cottonwoods, Lisa Anderson and Jim Benson work the land on their Malandro Farm, coaxing sweet potatoes, sweet and shelling peas, carrots and other vegetables from the same earth where Jim’s parents farmed a generation earlier. This farm is where Jim grew up, and it’s where he and Lisa are raising their three young children, who frolic in the fields, eagerly tasting each new crop as it comes in. Their connection to place is palpable, and that bond likely has something to do with why their kale, radishes, tomatoes, squash—and every other food they grow—taste so delicious.

“I love the work, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it,” Lisa says, surveying their field while keeping a close eye on Zoe, age 7, Ila, 4, and Kaleb, 2, as they run circles around us while we chat beneath an old cottonwood outside their farmhouse. “Even weeding. I love being connected to nature, to our food supply, and being able to work from home. The kids help minimally (physically) but emotionally and energetically, they help.”

Jim finds satisfaction in the continuity of life on this land, where he grew up as the child of hippies. “For me, a lot of it is I just like the idea of doing good and making a living at it,” he says. “Doing minimal harm; it’s the least harm you can do almost, as far as participating in society and making a living. And obviously, for me, feeling the connection to the land. Hopefully…I’m passing something worthwhile on to my family.”

You’ve likely tasted the fresh, flavorful fruits of their labors—all certified organic—at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, where Lisa sells year-round, or at the Taos Farmers Market, where Jim brings a truckload of freshly plucked ingredients to vend. There’s a steady stream of customers at both Lisa’s booth in Santa Fe and Jim’s stall in Taos, where tomatoes are their most popular item, as Zoe enthusiastically points out. Her mom agrees. “We get those tomatoes early, and I would say, we do have a following for those,” Lisa says. “But I know that people know us for our carrots.” Jim can see why that’s true. “I really love carrots,” he says. “People talk about tomatoes fresh off the vine, but for me, carrots straight out of the ground—there’s just something about them that feels alive.”

You don’t have to spend much time on Malandro Farm to sense the deep passion this family shares for their land. And it comes as no surprise to learn they received the Organic Young Farmer Award from this year’s New Mexico Organic Farming Conference. Sponsored by the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau, the award cites Lisa and Jim’s “focus on providing their customers with the freshest food possible while striving to ensure that the land is continually improving its soil health and biological diversity through the use of cover crops, green manure, compost and crop rotation.”

“We add a lot of compost,” Lisa explains. “We try as much as we can to do cover crops, and vetch is definitely my favorite. It gets planted in the fall and worked in in the spring, and we use winter wheat and peas if vetch doesn’t work. To some extent, it’s just having this buffer zone around us, pasture that is minimally grazed, a lot of wild land that was left untamed by Jim’s parents being here.”

Malandro Farm sits on 47 acres, but only two acres are utilized for growing. Some of the land not in production is occupied by their goats or used as pastures for cows owned by friends and neighbors. “Having all that undisturbed soil around means that there’s a big storehouse maintained in the greater area around here,” Jim says. “Also, we try to minimize tilling. We think carefully about the timing of it so we don’t have to till twice. We’ll never leave a piece of land uncovered in this environment because the wind will blow all your topsoil away. Lisa’s very conscientious about rotating crops.” Lisa nods, and adds, “I try to put three years between crops.”

The two acres in production at Malandro Farm are dominated by three high, tented tunnels that Lisa and Jim call caterpillar tunnels. These 14- and 15-foot-high hoop structures, covered with white tents that are easy to move and with sides you can raise, were purchased with the help of the National Resources Conservation Service. This cost-sharing program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, aimed at conserving natural resources, provides technical assistance to farmers and other private landowners. Beneath each tent lies a virtual Garden of Eden, a green oasis of tall vines of sweet and shelling peas, rows and rows of tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, carrots, beets, lettuce, fennel and so much more.

These two farmers met in Tucson, Ariz., when they were working in the same vegetarian restaurant. “I was really passionate about food and had been working in a restaurant and in a small organic market in the produce department,” Lisa says. “And I was seeing farmers coming in and doing deliveries, so I just got more interested in their side of it rather than the retail side. I did an internship on a farm in Colorado, in 2007, outside of Ignacio. I had a great mentor, but I also just recognized I really preferred to work for myself, and that, to some extent, I can learn this.”

At that point, Jim was taking care of the Abiquiú property because his dad was leaving. “After her trip to Colorado, we took a trip to Brazil,” Jim says. “She was clear she wanted to come back here and grow and farm. I realized I needed to be together with Lisa and I needed to offer support.”

And so, in 2008, Malandro Farm was born as a small operation, lovingly nurtured into the success it is today. “This was all Lisa’s dream,” Jim says. “I wanted nothing to do with it. But I definitely have become more involved every year.” He’s a vital part of the farm, but he’s also in the process of becoming a professional firefighter, which will provide job security and, because of long shifts that alternate with longer off-shifts, allow him some solid chunks of time at home and on the farm.

Lisa and Jim are not alone in their love of farming in New Mexico. According to newly released data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture, New Mexico is one of just a few states where the number of farms continues to grow and the number of young people drawn to farming is also on the rise. In addition, 41 percent of the state’s producers in family farms are female, reflecting Lisa’s role at Malandro Farm.

Behind the stats, though, farming is never easy or glamorous, no matter how many customers love your carrots and tomatoes. “There’s the unpredictability of the weather, the uncertainty of the water supply, and we have problems with pests,” Lisa says. “Even if you can get past all of those things, it’s a lot of work, and it’s emotionally and physically draining.”

And yet, the rewards are great. “Part of the satisfaction for me in farming here is bringing to fruition what my parents envisioned, to get this piece of property so that it will sustain their children, to get ‘back to the land,’ raising my kids on the same property I grew up on,” Jim says. “Knowing that my kids are eating…”

“…Healthy food!” Zoe interjects happily, and her parents break into broad smiles.