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


Car-Eating Mud-hole Strikes Again

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car eating mud-holeThe dreaded car-eating mudholes in this area stranded two vehicles yesterday. In mid afternoon, Randy tried to drive the mission truck on a dirt road through a deep wash. The foot and a half of mud in the bottom of the gully almost swallowed the truck, but Randy valiantly managed to gun the engine and force the truck halfway up the opposite bank before it bogged down. Randy then walked out to the highway and caught a ride back home.

Later yesterday evening, after the muddy places on the back roads should have been frozen solid, Randy tried to rescue the truck from the mudhole. After fighting for awhile to rock the truck out of the hole dug by its spinning tires, he gave up and came home for some dinner.

After dinner, he drove out to try again. This time, he attempted to follow the tiny lines of roads on the GPS to drive beyond that wash and get to the truck from the other direction. His idea was to use our Rez Rocket to pull the truck over the edge of the bank and back onto solid ground/road. When that didn’t work, he tried one more time to back the truck into the wash and onto firm road on the entry side of the mudhole.

Victory! The truck was now freed from the clutches of the dreaded mudhole. However, Randy was worried that the ruts were so deep that the car might bottom out and get stuck that way. So he tried to follow the GPS squiggles one more time to get to paved roads in a round-about way.

escaping a mud-hole

a car-eating mudhole missed its "prey" earlier this year

He almost made it, but a sudden blind curve found the Rez Rocket swallowed up to the bottom of the car in yet one more vicious mud-hole. This time, he had no idea where he was or how far he was from “civilization.” Too many of the GPS “roads” disappeared when attempting to drive on them and he found himself following other paths that were not on his map.

When he called me to tell me his tale of woe, I was worried. It was getting late, getting colder, and he was LOST back in the maze of canyons and dirt roads built for oil exploration, with no homes or people for miles. (I was relieved that we are in remote, high desert New Mexico, not in northern Kazakhstan with our oldest daughter where the temperatures have been hovering at -50 F…but that’s another story!)

Randy started walking while I organized things on my end—make arrangements for Anna (since big brother Jakob is out of town this weekend), find warm gloves and hat, refill water bottles, email a few friends for moral support, scrape the ice off our big truck, and more. I finally drove down the highway to a trading post 6 miles away—the place Randy was headed for IF he could find it.

By the time I got there, Randy was almost to the meeting point. Whewww! Relief! My husband was no longer wandering alone in the dark and cold down unknown dirt roads—even though the dreaded mud-hole still held our Rez Rocket.

We stopped by to pick up the mission truck, dropped our big truck back home, and gathered tow straps, a logging chain, and the come-along. Time to do battle with that mud-hole…

When we finally got back to our Rez Rocket, it took awhile to figure out a strategy. I’m sure I heard the mud-hole chuckling evilly as Randy tried to find a place where he could reach something sturdy under the car—a challenge when the car was nose downward, deep in the swallowing mud. He finally gunned the mission truck to the far side of the mud, attached the come-along to the hatch-back latch loop on the Rez Rocket and the logging chain to the back of the truck. I put the truck in drive while he gunned the car in reverse…and with a little smoke and whining engines, the car finally popped out of the grip of the mud-hole.

Randy got both vehicles back across the dreaded mud-hole and onto solid dirt road again. (No, I’m not yet ready to directly confront those dreaded mud-holes…) We finally got home after midnight, tired but happy to have all 3 vehicles parked back in the driveway where they belong.

I’m sure, however, that those mud-holes are already plotting their revenge…

Wood Stove Warmth

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Many of our Navajo friends heat their homes and churches with wood stoves. I’ve talked before about the process of cutting enough wood to last the winter. Today, I want to share a little more about this form of heating.

wood stove heatingWe have had a number of frigid Sundays. Just walking from our truck into church, my toes begin to ache, my figures freeze, and my nose starts dripping from the cold. By arriving a few minutes early, there is time to stand by the stove, basking in the warmth. Once or twice we sat in one of the pews close to the stove. It was lovely to begin with…but by part way through the service it felt more like a sweat bath than a church! Now we sit a few pews back from the stove—not too cold, not too hot, but just right.

Unfortunately, there is a darker side to using a big metal woodstove for winter heating. One of the little guys from our church family was chasing a ball across his living room. Ty tripped and fell against the stove, seriously burning most of his upper arm. At first it looked bad enough that the doctors were considering surgery. Fortunately, it is healing well.

tough guy tyBefore Christmas, I was involved in on-going treatment for an older girl at the school who had an unexplained deep burn on her forearm, somehow received from the wood-stove at home. “Della” stoically stood stiffly still while I pulled off the bandages, reapplied antibiotic ointment, and re-bandaged the nasty wound. Apparently the ointment and bandaging helped lessen the pain, very different than the Vicks Vaporub her mother smeared on the burn for the first few days!

The next time you enjoy the warmth and peacefulness of a wooden stove or a fireplace on a cold winter’s night, take a moment to remember our Navajo friends who use this as their only form of heat. Remember the work it takes to bring in enough wood for an entire winter of heating. And, don’t forget the Navajo young ones who get hurt by this source of comfort for us. Say a prayer for their protection and safety…

Playing Mrs. Claus

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Last week I had the opportunity to play Mrs. Claus at the local school. The staff was overwhelmed with sorting and wrapping donated gifts. They asked if I could come in on Wednesday and help finish the task.

donated toys

...piles of donated toys take over the nurses' office...

I took over the school nurse’s office with boxes and stacks of toys piled on every available surface. I was given a list of every student sorted by grade—100+ students in grades pre-school through 8th grade. My job was to pick out an appropriate toy for each child to be wrapped by Santa’s elves in the 7th and 8th grade class.

Sounds easy, right?

It took hours to balance out the toys for each class: finding age appropriate toys of approximately the same value for both girls and boys. Taking the numbers for each toy and figuring out which class had the closest number of recipients. Then re-juggling everything when I couldn’t get things to balance for a later class. Sigh…

mrs claus at lybrook

Playing Mrs. Claus at Lybrook School

Finally, everything was sorted, labeled for the specific child to receive each toy, piled precariously into big boxes, and ready to be hauled down the hall to be wrapped. The principal helped me wrap the gifts for the 7th and 8th graders. And the job was finished.

Parties were held on Wednesday afternoon, gifts were distributed, snacks and sweets were eaten, and children were excited by the spirit of Christmas filling the school. Meanwhile, the principal, the turn-around-leader and I sat around a conference table in the office with aching backs, shoes kicked off, and a paper-cut or two from cartons and wrapping paper, talking about Christmas plans and enjoying a short rest. Christmas had come to the students at Lybrook School…

Making Travel Plans…or…a Tale of Two Trips


We have heard from others that many Navajo tend to live “in the moment.” They often fail to plan for future possibilities. They sometimes mumble about being “victims,” about things just happening to them, about having hoped to do something, but “it just didn’t work out.”

planning for a trip...compulsive list-making style!

As a compulsive list-maker and options-planner, this can be baffling to me. Just write things on your calendar…then DO them as planned. Just figure out the various options, choose something, and follow through. What is all this fuss and bother really about?

Let me share a “Tale of Two Trips:”

Our children and I will be driving to Iowa for Thanksgiving, then on to Ohio to visit family and friends for a week or so. As soon as we decided to take the trip I started making lists. I researched the trip on Mapquest—looking at different itineraries, balancing who and what we could see on various routes vs. most efficient travel. I checked with those we wanted to visit, to see which days might be most convenient. I have pages of lists, options, and, eventually, a definite itinerary. I’m now in the process of contacting everyone we hope to see, to make sure they save time for us on their calendars.

Then there is the story of two young men from church. They are planning to go to Texas for Bible Training and work experience. They have been talking about it for months. They think they might have arranged somewhere to stay…but maybe not. They are working hard at odd jobs to save up money for travel expenses and getting-settled expenses…but each time they get some money saved, a family member has a crisis and they need to help financially. They initially thought they would move over Labor Day weekend, or maybe by the end of October, or maybe after Christmas. They don’t see a need to plan ahead…so they may or may not ever make the trip!

A “Tale of Two Trips” … and yet one more example of differences between Anglo and Navajo cultures.

Full of Wisdom

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In Navajo tradition, long hair is a symbol of wisdom. It was believed that if you left your hair loose and flowing, your wisdom would flow away from you. It was also believed that if you ever cut your hair, you were cutting off your wisdom.

This may sound silly to many of us today. But these old, traditional beliefs still affect many of my Navajo friends. Even those who are strong, committed Christians and have turned away from traditional beliefs and rituals still hear echoes of these ideas.

Treasure your "wisdom" -- don't cut it off!

Many of the “grandmas” in the church (and in the community) keep their hair twisted up. Even if they no longer use the traditional string to tie a specific style of bun, they often keep their hair in a clip. I have asked a few grandmas why they wear their hair the way they do. Usually they reply that it is just the way they have always worn it. Or they answer that they feel more comfortable that way. It no longer seems to be tied to traditions…but it is still part of their identity.

My friend “Raeanne” has been fighting breast cancer for the past few years. She has a pretty, round face and curvy figure. Her chin-length bob hair style is adorable…and to my eye, fits her personality perfectly. However, I’ve learned that Raeanne can no longer bear to look in the mirror. Since her hair fell out from chemo and she bought this wig, she feels guilty. Whenever she sees how short her natural hair it, she hears her grandmother admonishing her as a child to never cut her hair. To glory in long hair that shows her wisdom. To value the wisdom she has gathered through years of living by valuing the long hair that symbolizes that wisdom. Today, when Raeanne looks in the mirror, she mourns not just the cancer that continues to ravage her body, but she mourns her loss of wisdom.

There are many in the community today who have chosen the freedom of short hair. But there are many more who still value traditions. Their long hair is a beautiful symbol of the life they have lived and the wisdom they have gained.

a-cute Critter Problems

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We seem to have a problem with all the cute critters around here. And it’s a bigger problem than the temptation to spoil them.

our tree-climbing goat-bird

One of the young goats has decided that he is a bird: he climbs wwaaaaayyy up in the trees to reach the sweet leaves. He’s really cute when he climbs trees like this. Unfortunately, he has yet to figure out how to get down safely. He usually just jumps…and we hope he doesn’t get his legs stuck among the branches!

such a cute "fan club"

And then there are the cute turkey and guinea fowl babies. They have become “groupies.” Sometimes it’s fun having a “fan club” come running to follow you around whenever you set foot outside the door. Unfortunately, these little beggars also leave gooey, messy gifts wherever they wander. Oooo…watch where you step!

cute puppy looking for a good home

An adorable puppy appeared on the property a few weeks ago. Actually, he was a pitiful, starving bundle of ribs when someone locked him in the turkey pen. He has gained weight with proper feeding. Unfortunately, we can’t keep yet one more animal. We are going to miss the cute fellow when we take him to the shelter later this week.

an a-cute problem...

Finally, we have an a-cute problem with a sly critter who has been sneaking in every morning for a visit and a quick snack from the chicken pen. We tried letting our dogs run loose. Another chicken disappeared. We tried shooting in the air to scare Mr. Wile-E. Another chicken disappeared. We tried getting a bead on him to finish him off. He stayed hidden… and another chicken disappeared later in the day. So far it’s Coyote 6—Mission 0.

We can ignore the “problems” with the other critters around here. They are CUTE, after all. The Coyote? We are in a-cute need of a permanent way to close down the chicken buffet…

Any ideas?

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