A generation before Jefferson leveled his mountaintop, the first buildings were going up at El Rancho de las Golandrinas here in New Mexico. Just south of Santa Fe, the ranch of the swallows became an important way station, a paraje, along the Camino Real, and today is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Like Monticello, it's a beautiful place to visit, the only living history museum in the state, and the Fall Harvest Festival is one of the best times to go.
|Fall blooming chamisa in front of the arbor|
|the grain mill|
|the mill pond|
The grains were prepared as they would have been in the 18th century; enormous round loaves of bread came out of cast iron cauldrons suspended over wood fires. They smelled wonderful, and the men dressed up in soldiers' uniforms were obviously enjoying their lunches.
There are orchards here too, and children lined up to press apples for cider. We had to pull our grandson away from this one, after he enthusiastically began testing the 'samples.' A vineyard offers grapes, and smaller kids got to climb into a little 'foot powered' press. The boy declined, but our granddaughter loved it. No samples of the wine, though.
|The cider press|
|Feeding hungry soldiers|
|The dye pot|
Herbs and native plants were vitally important to the early Spanish, and were used as seasonings, dyes, and medicines. There were a number of activities showing how they were used. Ladies in the hot sun in the church courtyard spun and embroidered, others prepared dyes and dipped wool yarns that dryed to vibrant colors.
In the afternoon, dancers and musicians entertained the crowds with Spanish folk dances and colorful, twirling costumes, one more example of the unique cultural heritage of New Mexico.
It was a beautiful October day, sunny and breezy, towering trees taking on their autumn colors and giving blessed shade, flowing water never far away. It's easy to see what made New Mexico so attractive to our earliest colonists, and what makes it 'enchanted' even today.
|Yarns dyed with cocchineal|