Pinon Season

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It is pinon season here at Lybrook. We have a handful of these gnarled, scraggly trees on the property. Most years these trees are just like any other tree in the pine family—dropping occasional needles and growing a few small cones here or there. Every 3-7 years, however, these trees drop GOLD!

A steady stream of gold-miners (aka pinon-nut-gatherers) have visited our property in the past few weeks. The honorable ones knock on the door and ask if they can harvest nuts from the ground in front of our house. Others act more like commandos—everyone young and old piling out of a beat-up car, started to pick up nuts as fast as they can! We send most of these treasure-hunters on their way, saving the bounty for some of the local Navajo with whom we have on-going relationships.

We enjoy the rich taste of these nuts but have decided that we are entirely too lazy to bother harvesting this “gold.” The nuts are tiny, and are too easily camouflaged by the dirt and pebbles on the ground under the trees. To pick them up either puts a crick in one’s back or requires sprawling on the ground. And the sap, oh the sap…we have never experienced such drippy, sticky sap! I admit it smells wonderfully “pine-y” but it is next to impossible to remove from skin, clothing or hair.

oh the SAP…nasty sticky sap…

pinon nut camoflage

Some historians claim that pinon nut harvesting is what allowed native tribes to survive long, cold winters. The nuts are an almost perfect food for active hunters & gatherers with 13% protein, 60% fat, 20% carbohydrates. Today these tasty bits of richness are more often used as a snack.

Because pinon trees can’t really be farmed, and because the tiny nuts must be harvested by hand, the price is high for any nuts that are gathered. In this area of New Mexico, small bags can be found for sale each fall. They are sold at the local mercantile, in health-food stores in town, and from the back of pick-up trucks. Usually the nuts have already been roasted and salted, although they are rarely shelled. The price per bag is clearly listed; the price per pound is usually absent. Paying $5-10 for a bag of nuts feels reasonable; figuring out that those bags cost $15-40 per pound is a painful realization!

It’s pinon season at Lybrook. There’s GOLD in them thar woods…for someone ELSE to find!

Links for more information:

Prices HERE

Tree Facts HERE

Stories HERE

Another blog entry about gathering pinon nuts HERE

Lessons Learned from “The Week of No Water”

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We get our water from a community water system that serves 60 customers along 20 or so miles of highway. The well is right behind us, with storage tanks atop the mesa.

notice the water tanks to the right on top the mesa…LCM is just over this hill

After a few months of scares, problems, and outages, the pump that brings water up from the bottom of the 1700’ deep well failed.

It took a number of days of scrambling to file the appropriate paperwork, but the State of New Mexico eventually approved an emergency loan of $25,000 to replace the pump.  This turns out to be quite an involved project: the pump, motor, electrical cable and approximately 48 lengths of pipe (each 32’ long) had to be removed with each length of pipe unscrewed by hand before eventually reversing the process and installing the new pump, cable, and pipes. The Navajo water authority donated their services to do this project which was a huge help.

After a week with no water, you can’t imagine how excited we were to hear gurgling in the pipes…and to eventually have a trickle of water coming out of the faucet!

We are so glad the water was only “out” for a week. It could have been worse—much worse, with estimates as long as 2-3 months with no running water if state money had not been granted…

Here, in random order, are some of the lessons I learned during our “Week of No Water”…

  • Imagination is NOT the same as reality… Many of our Navajo friends have beautiful thick long hair. They haul water all the time, and I have tried to imagine how they keep their hair so clean: buckets? Drip showers? Water heated on the stove? When I asked for advice this past week, every one of them told me to just go to a family member’s house, someone who has running water! (Great advice…but my mom lives a few states too far away to run over there to take showers!)
  • Water is FAR heavier than you think…especially when you are dealing with morning after morning of carrying in the 8th or 10th big pan filled with water from the tank on the back of the pick-up truck.
  • Be careful not to strain any muscles when you are carrying those pans of water…there is (unfortunately) no hot shower available to soak away the pain…
  • Actual running water to wash hair is such a treat it doesn’t matter if it is icy cold! (I was able to wash my hair after the Cuba Volunteer Fire Department meeting mid-week. I think the chief was shocked that I didn’t complain about the cold water…)
  • Students are extra thirsty when there’s no water in the drinking fountains at school…(The school stayed open all week—with bottle water, porta-potties, and a “water buffalo” hauled in the by National Guard for water to be used in the kitchen.)
  • Soaking caked-on-food-covered-skillets in cold water is useless, even if the water has dish soap in it. I had to heat water (on the stove or via my coffee-maker) and let the skillets soak in HOT soapy water to scrub them clean.
  • It takes far more pans of water than you think would be necessary to actually flush the toilets properly (and then you sadly remember how much work it is to haul that water inside…) Suddenly it is easy to follow the saying: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” That toilet really does NOT need to be flushed every time it is used…
  • With no running water, you start looking around the property, trying to figure out where would be a good place to put up a few outhouses…after all, that’s what many Navajo have and how things work for many area churches…

    fancy women’s outhouse at a nearby church…

  • When the community water system fails, you suddenly learn how many local people do not understand how things actually work. I was lectured far too many times about how we were discriminating against the Navajo by turning off the faucet they use to haul water—nothing I said could convince them that we, too, had no water…

    like the Navajo families in this area, we too had to haul water this past week…

Bus Adventures

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A Navajo friend of ours is living in Albuquerque, working hard to finish a degree in Early Childhood Education. Because she hasn’t been able to take care of her elderly mother, take a full load of classes, and work a job, “Sharon” had to quit her job. This meant she eventually quit making payments on her car and had to sell it.

bus oneSharon told me the story of her bus adventures. After giving up her car, she realized that the college is too far from their apartment for her to walk to class. For a few days she was in a panic. She might be able to get an occasional ride from a classmate, but that wouldn’t work every day.

Then she remembered seeing city busses occasionally driving down the major road a few blocks from where she lives. One day, she gathered her courage and some money and walked to a bus stop.

Sharon had never ridden the busses before. She had no idea where the routes ran. She knew there were bus stops on the college campus, but she didn’t know if those were on the same route as the busses running near her home.

Sharon spent the day riding busses, trying to figure out where they ran, working hard to guess when and where to get off to switch to another bus. Eventually she figured out what busses to take to get between home and college. Over the next few days, she learned by trial and error when each bus got to the bus stops she needed.

bus twoSharon explained this process to me in a very matter-of-fact way. She was rightfully proud of how much work she had done to solve her transportation problem.

I didn’t have the heart to ask her why she hadn’t gone on-line to figure out the bus routes. I didn’t mention that she could probably have picked up bus route brochures at her college. I simply congratulated her on her perseverance and her courage in taking a bus adventure!

How to Get Professional Licensure in “The Land of Enchantment”

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1.  Try to ignore all the doom-and-gloom nay-sayers who claim this is an impossible task.

2.   Search on-line for downloadable application forms.

Don't waste time on websites...just CALL.


3.   Give up trying to navigate poorly designed websites and pick up the telephone. Request forms be mailed to your home.

4.   A few weeks later, call (again) and request (again) that application forms be mailed to your home.

5.   Once you receive the forms, begin gathering the necessary documentation of previous education and experience.



Don't forget to get TWO sets of fingerprint cards!

6.   Make a trip to town to be fingerprinted. Stop by the gas station to get a money order.

7.   No one certified to do fingerprinting was at the police station. And the money order machine was down. Go to another gas station and at least get the money order you need.

8.  Grumble, mumble, and whine to everyone around you. They will all commiserate about the challenges of dealing with government offices.

9.   Call ahead to verify when someone can do the finger printing. Repeat this step until the receptionist finally gets an answer from the Police Chief.

10.  Three days later, finally head to town again to complete the finger printing. Also stop at the bank to get one form notarized.


Wait a week or two before checking your mailbox...

11.  Mail off the forms. Double check the packet. Do you have everything? Forms; notarized statement that you are not a felon; two (not one but TWO) fingerprint cards, properly filled in; money order for a background check (to verify if you told the truth about not being a felon); money order for license; copies of transcripts, CPR card, National Registry card, etc.

12.  Wonder what is happening with your application. Just when you are thinking of calling for a status update, open your mailbox and find the packet in your mailbox. Sigh with relief.

13.  No, you do not yet have your license. There is an unwritten law, hidden somewhere in the books, that all applications (no matter what state department you are dealing with) MUST be returned at least once for additional information.

14.  Grumble, mumble, and whine to everyone around you. They will all commiserate about the challenges of dealing with government offices.

15.  Jump through the hoops and track down the requested information—even though it was not part of the original instructions for the application packet.

16.  Re-submit the application packet. (Don’t think about how much postage this is costing you…or how much of your tax money is wasted on unnecessary postage by government offices.)

17.   Wait a few more weeks, or even a month.

18.  Finally receive another large envelope from the state office. Sigh with relief and rip it open.

19.  Stare in disbelief that they sent you a license for something you did not apply for. Sigh (again) in disbelief.

20.  Grumble, mumble and whine to everyone around you. They will all commiserate about the challenges of dealing with government offices.

21.  Decide if it is worth arguing, appealing, and/or going through the process another time to get the appropriate license you originally requested. (Perhaps the organization you want to work with would be willing to accept the lesser license you received?)

22.  Join the gloom-and-doom nay-sayers who claim dealing with New Mexico’s government offices is an impossible task.


…and just to make it clear…these “how-tos” are not exaggerated! This really is what happened with licensure from the education department. Similar steps were required regarding the mission’s tax-exempt status, although that was finally granted correctly. Currently, I am at Step 17 with the public safety department about transferring my EMT certification to this state. (IF that is finally granted, there are still more training classes, pencil and paper tests, and practical tests that I must go through…but that is an other story for another day!)