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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fort Union, New Mexico

From far away it looks like a post apocalyptic movie location...or a Stonehenge type place.

But as you move closer, you realize it's the ruined remains of Fort Union. Cavalry, infantry, and a large quartermaster depot were housed here on the New Mexico plains to protect the folks using the Santa Fe Trail and to act as a supply hub for all the other forts and military positions in the Southwest.

The fort was made from adobe clay brick, wood, local stone for the foundations, and, like in the photo below, adorned with bricks hauled along the Santa Fe Trail. Nails, window glass and roofing tin were also brought along the trail to finish the fort.

The work was hastily done and the clay plaster coating the adobe bricks cracked and required constant repairs to keep the damp from seeping between the plaster and the brick. When the fort was abandoned in 1891, things just fell apart.

Officers lived here, on Officers' Row. The posts in front of the houses held the porch roofs. Officers' wives would sit on their porches to watch the goings on, fanning themselves in the summer heat. Pretty much all that is left are the brick chimneys, standing as witness to times past.

It was a pretty isolated posting, but the fort had a hospital, school, a band, dances, baseball teams, and other entertainment. About seven miles away was the village of Loma Parda, (now a ghost town) where the more adventurous soldiers could find what might be called "night life," drinking at the cantinas and dancing with the local (and sometimes imported) ladies.

I could write more, but you can read more here, instead.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Quilty Pleasures-Pattie's Easy Street Quilt

Back before Christmas, sis-in-law Pattie and I decided to make Bonnie Hunter's Mystery Quilt, called Easy Street.

Pattie finished her quilt and last month sent me a photo of the completed top. She went with a different colorway than Bonnie's and was at first concerned because she went very scrappy in choosing the fabrics. Because of this, the center design didn't show up as clearly as she would have liked. Once together, though, I must say that the design shines through just fine and the scrappiness makes me think of a church's stained glass windows.

Check out the flying geese border and how the geese get smaller as they are closer to the corners. Smart move!

My quilt top is still partially together in a bag somewhere in the sewing room, waiting for me to unsew a couple blocks so I can recommence assembly. There's nothing like messing up to create a big old stop sign in your mind.

Pattie, your quilt has shamed me into getting mine done. Soon, very soon.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stalking the Wild Asparagus in Northern New Mexico

The other day someone mentioned that her young friends were foraging for fruit and wild veggies grown on public lands or from branches hanging over fences on public property. There's an app for that, did you know? Wildman Steve Brill leads foraging tours through Central Park in New York, but don't actually pick anything or you might get arrested.

So friend Betsy asked if I'd like to search for wild asparagus. Our first outing last week was a bust: we clomped around in a boggy area behind the Catholic church in a local town, but someone had been there before us. All we got was wet: it was a misty moisty morning.

The other day, though, we spent some time strolling along an acequia (water ditch) looking for the elusive wild asparagus. Betsy is an expert asparagus spotter and showed me how to find the tall stalks poking up from the earth. She is a relentless searcher and this time it paid off.

Wild asparagus grows along water sources or places that get some moisture: water ditches and fence lines seem to be the most likely spots around here. In the photo below, you can see the acequia just beyond the barbed wire fence. 

As luck would have it, we found a fair number of asparagus spears growing on the far side of the fence which required careful reaching. One would hold the fence wire up while the other forager reachedreachedreached until she could snap off those tender stalks. Since some of the spears were almost going to seed, we left those. We foraged until thunder and lightning and some big rain drops told us to cut it out.

Betsy and I divided up our haul and each left with enough asparagus for a meal and a promise to meet again next week to look for some more.

Tom said it was much better than the stuff from the store and yes, it was tender and sweet, just like he is ;).

Sauteed Asparagus With Garlic (Serves 2)


1 handful asparagus (it doesn't have to be wild)
2 T butter
1-2 cloves garlic


1. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add the asparagus and garlic.

2. Cover the pan, lower the heat, and cook for about 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks. Pick up a piece of asparagus from the pan and bite into it. If you can bite through but it's still just a little firm, it's done.

Promise to cook your asparagus just until it's bright green. If you cook it until it's a grayish green, then it will be like that canned stuff my mom tried to feed us.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Quilty Pleasures: Modern Hexagon Quilt

At QuiltCon Jacquie Gering taught me how to machine piece hexagons, so our Modern Quilt Guild in Las Vegas, NM, asked me to share with them what I learned.

So I shared, in my kind of muddly way, and now we are working on some pieces using giant hexagons. I have been doing my usual procrastination thing and haven't made much headway but Betty brought her finished quilt to the last meeting and it is impressive, more so in person.

Note that the gray background isn't one piece of fabric, but hexagons, too, which adds depth to the quilt. The gray isn't your standard quilting cotton;  Betty thinks it might be auto upholstery fabric. It is tweedy and textured, a fun contrast to the center solids.

This quilt is going on a special trip to a long arm quilter where Betty will quilt it herself, her first time.

Betty is one of my quilting heroes: a fearless experimenter, always up for a challenge, ready for adventure.

If you live near Las Vegas, NM, come to our next MQG meeting. We meet the first Monday of the month at 1 pm at ThreadBear.