Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy Holidays from all of me at Mil Abrazos!

What a year it’s been!  Last December, I moved to Dilia, 1.5hr from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust purchased 32-acres of ancient agricultural land along the Pecos River.

The mission of the Trust, a nonprofit operating under the fiscal sponsorship of the New Mexico Community Foundation, includes affordable housing, agriculture and other cottage industries, permaculture education and land restoration.

Located south of Las Vegas on the lower Pecos watershed, the area has deeply captured my soul. The landscape, nourished by an Acequia tradition dating back to 1820, is a place of great beauty, serenity and abundance of wild life.

I hit the ground running as soon as we took possession of the property, and while sleeping in my truck through most of the winter, proceeded to develop the basic camp infrastructure for the incubation, design and creation of a new agrarian settlement for the benefit of future generations.

Way before I arrived here, I knew that in order to begin a design process with the broader community, I had to build enough infrastructure to comfortably accommodate the people and organizations with whom I have interacted with during my time in Santa Fe and elsewhere. 

Much has been accomplished in a year to prepare the place for visitors and group activities next spring:

  • A 400 sq ft caretaker’s cabin was completely remodeled
  • A full bathroom and laundry room was built
  • A bunkhouse with 4 beds was created for visitors and interns
  • 450 tree seedlings were planted and irrigation installed for the trees
  • The bridge over the acequia was rebuilt to accommodate large trucks
  • The electrical wiring has been upgraded
  • Fiber optic Internet has been brought to the property
  • Property was registered with the USDA Farm Bureau
  • 32 acre-feet of water rights were legally documented with the Office of the State Engineer
  • A 640 sq ft shop was set up for carpentry, welding, craft and repairs of all kinds
  • A 2,000 square-feet steel structure addition, which will accommodate a handicap bathroom, mudroom, camp kitchen and dining hall for 30 people, is currently being erected

Check here for a detailed picture report of our 2018 infrastructure accomplishments

I can say that time has gone fast and has also been very healing for me. 

There’s something profound about living and working alone on a quiet piece of land, dreaming and building a stage for the emergence of a new community. Being pregnant in a way, listening deeply, creating a nest, preparing to give birth. 

When you are here, there’s nowhere to go. For an entire year I was able to work 4-5 days a week at the property, undistracted and uninterrupted.  My home life being yoga, reading, writing, eating well and baking cookies for my friends. My social life consisting of going to mass on Sunday to meet my neighbors, and participating in the governance and maintenance of our complex 12-mile long communal irrigation system. 

While being here, I’ve been reflecting on how to respectfully and beneficially integrate a small multi-family settlement, with various associated cottage industries, within an old land grant that’s exquisitely quiet and slow, a fertile and well-irrigated traditional bread basket that ought to be preserved and revitalized.


I purposefully chose to begin the project by myself for that and many other reasons, including wishing to do a year-long permaculture observation of the land, trees, patterns, wildlife, plants, weather, people and local customs.

Mesmerized all day by the dance of the many birds calling this watershed their home or wintering ground, bathed in the freshest air and unpolluted skies, surrounded by pastures interspaced with large deciduous trees, ponds and all the beautiful biota that lives by the water, something else has been unfolding.

My mind seems to have accelerated its pace of decolonization.  As if a new way of thinking, feeling and looking at things has slowly but noticeably been emerging.  As if the mysterious strands of our DNA contain the useful wisdom of the past, becoming accessible to us when the times call for it.

It seems to me as though the times are now calling!  And my heart tells me that it’s from that mind that I wish to create, and co-create from.


What I have begun is setting the stage for the development of a small human settlement that will be designed around principles of land trust, where land is held in the commons and cannot be speculated on. I have been thinking long term, for the benefit of future generations.

My heart is into creating spaces where we learn and share skills, and develop resilience for what could possibly be a chaotic and difficult future.  Some of these skills will be old technologies of decision-making that many people sense we must bring back into our governing structures if we are going to survive, as well as skills of self-care, communication, parenting, healing, eldercare, cooperation, resource sharing, homeschooling, food production and more.

Being well aware of climate change upheavals, and of the fragility of our food system, I envision an agrarian project that also actively participates in the preservation and restoration of farmland for regenerative food production.  A community with its resources and programs engaged in supporting the economic revitalization of a neighboring 3,000-acre traditional bread basket with a rich and colorful farming and ranching tradition, while also assuring that the 200 year-old irrigation infrastructure is well maintained for the optimum flow and distribution of water.

Having experienced community living and land trust environments, I have learned that going slow is paramount.  Moving a bunch of people on a property and hoping that things will work has shown to often be unsustainable, unstable or even quite dysfunctional!

I am also painfully aware of the “founder’s syndrome” and do not wish to create a project that solely relies on my energy and ideas to function. So beyond initiating the project, raising the initial capital, loaning all the money I have to bootstrap the birthing phase, and doing 95% of the construction by myself in building the initial camp, it is my intention to have the next steps of this adventure be designed, financed and built with and by the larger community.

My 4-year experiment with Gaia Gardens, has put me in touch with a broad network of people and organizations, all working towards the creation of a better world. Many of them, and lots of new ones, will be invited to contribute to various aspects of the design process.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the people who supported Gaia Gardens and helped launch the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust project.

The owner of the Gaia Gardens property, wwoofers and volunteers, our neighbors at Los Chamisos, the Will Atkinson Estate, EarthCare, the New Mexico Community Foundation, the Santa Fe Community Foundation, the McCune Foundation, our CSA members and customers at the Farmers’ Market, LaMontanita Coop, The Food Depot, Monte del Sol Charter School, Payne’s Nursery, Santa Fe Greenhouses, Aromaland, all the people who generously donated to our "Let's buy the Farm" Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, the many seed companies that donated organic seeds, and all the strangers who visited our politically controversial farm stand, and became friends and supporters.

As much as many of us dream of living in the country, raising and homeschooling children in a farm setting, making a livelihood through a successful cottage industry or cooperative, or aging in a village setting where elders are loved, useful and respected, there are not that many communities out there doing that. 

If it were easy, there would be many happy, thriving intentional rural communities…

For me, creating rural community must be coordinated and designed to also serve other functions like preserving farmland from
real estate speculation and development, and destructive monoculture. Our new agrarian settlements ought to be sanctuaries for people and wildlife, learning centers, and dynamic nodes in the evolution of culture.

In addition, our project will help give land access to aspiring farmers who otherwise couldn’t afford property, as farmland prices are exorbitant and it is no longer feasible to repay a mortgage from the revenues of a small farm. 

I am currently writing a grant ($25,000) to help pay for a comprehensive Permaculture Master Plan process that will draw upon the rich pool of talents in our region and beyond, on all the topics that ought to be weaved in the creation of a community farm school sanctuary-type.  This process will begin as soon as the dining hall and camp kitchen are ready.  Elders, Farmers, Builders and Engineers, Herbalists and Healers, Parents, Artists and Musicians, Activists, Permaculturists and all the organizations dealing with youth, recovery, poverty, food justice and economic development in rural Northern New Mexico will be invited to participate in the design process.

My intention is to proceed in a deliberate and wise way to define a vision and master plan, engaging a broad community to help design, finance and build a creative outpost for learning in nature and in community.

My hunch, and hope, is that a qualified group of potential residents will emerge from the many sessions of the design process and other group activities at the property.

It could be a couple years, while a vision is clarified and governing documents put in place, before residents settle here.  I’m currently the caretaker of the property and the project manager.  The process of designing the community will reveal whether it’s appropriate for me to be part of the community, or if my calling takes me elsewhere. 

What’s most important for me right now is to secure and restore traditional farmland, and plant the seed for a small sustainable agrarian settlement to take root, for the benefit of future generations.

I have been inspired to weave eldercare in the vision of the project, all the way to a dying house by the river.  Embedded in the governing agreements of the community will be clauses to address the caring of elders by the community and residents rights to finish their life on the land if they choose to.  There is support from hospice care organizations in our network to help us with this essential topic.

A friend of mine, who died a couple years ago, left behind a bunch of useful earth-moving equipment (Bobcat with many attachments, trucks, trailers) that we are looking at purchasing from his wife and create a land restoration collective run by women, an idea that I have pitched to several organizations in Santa Fe that have shown interest in supporting such a project, which could become one of our cottage industries.

Now here comes the fun money part…

The launch of this project was partially financed by the $38,000 we raised in 2015 through an Indiegogo campaign, while running Gaia Gardens.

I personally loaned $30,000 to the project to help secure the property, which is owner-financed.  The nonprofit still owes $120,000 on the land.

I also loaned the non-profit another $50,000 to finance the first 18 months of loan payments ($800/month), utilities ($130/month), property and non-profit insurance ($2,000/year) and material and hired labor to build the first layer of infrastructure. 

The latest push to build the 2,000sq’ steel addition, wrapped around the existing shipping containers, is costing a lot more money than anticipated as I have hired a team of experienced welders, and metal isn’t cheap.  A lot of structural metal having been donated to the project, and the existing structure being steel, it made sense to invest in building the addition with metal to withstand the potential destructive force of climate change. 

The money I had saved, and knew I would loan to the project to bootstrap its coming into existence, has been well used.  I have built houses, created homesteads and farms before, and know all aspects of construction. I have learned how to efficiently build, source and stage material, get things donated, find stuff and make things out of nothing.  

I am very pleased with all that has been accomplished.

And...the money that has birthed and propelled this project forward will soon run out.

I knew I would eventually have to remove my hardhat and start raising capital. Well, this time has come a little sooner than expected…

I have begun contacting some of our largest donors from our 2015 capital campaign, soliciting year-end donations.

I am now reaching out to our larger network here to ask for your support and generosity.

Things we need:

  • Money
  • Building Material 
  • Legal Counsel
  • Grant writing
  • Fundraising
  • Bookkeeping
  • Land restoration expertise related to flood irrigation
  • Hemp production expertise (it is now legal in New Mexico)
See our wish list for more details

I look forward to welcoming many of you soon for some good food, stargazing, bird watching, playing by the river, building mud huts and composting toilets, tending animals, gardens and fields, and mingling with an interesting and diverse group of people.

Like all the creation I have been part of, for me they are simply environments to help mix ideas, people, styles, practices, talents, visions and resources.

Helping to create a feeling of community.  A sense of belonging.  A place to be oneself, heal and feel useful, supported and appreciated. 

Thank you again for your support, ideas, inspiration, encouragements and love!

And Happy New Year to all of you,


Check the Photo Gallery for a visual tour of our first year on the land

Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust is a non-profit project fiscally-sponsored by the
New Mexico Community Foundation, a 501(c)3
Donations are tax-deductible

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Help Us Buy the Farm!


As you may know, I have been running Gaia Gardens, a nonprofit, one-acre, certified organic urban farm in Santa Fe, NM, USA for the past 3 years.

The Gaia Gardens property is threatened with foreclosure so we are attempting to buy the property through a short sale.

To preserve this unique piece of land, continue our educational mission and provide affordable housing for future generations, we have created the Mil Abrazos (One Thousand Hugs) Community Land Trust, a nonprofit, to purchase the farm property.

A Community Land Trust is a nonprofit membership organization that owns and holds land “in trust” for the benefit of the community in order to provide permanently affordable access to land for such purposes as quality housing, sustainable agriculture, cottage industries and co-operatives, by forever removing the land from the speculative market.

In order to raise capital to purchase the farm property, we have launched an Indiegogo crowdfundingcampaign. Campaign will run until Oct 16, 2014

We are off to a good start and need all the support and exposure we can garner.

I would deeply appreciate if you could help us promote our Indiegogo campaign via your Facebook and other social media.

Please visit our campaign, contribute if you feel inspired, leave a comment (it helps boost our ranking) and use the social media share icons to help promote our fundraising effort.

Thanks a million!


Watch campaign here

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Garden is Starting Again!

We are please to announce that 50 volunteers came yesterday to clean the entire garden space up and we are ready to get started with the garden.

If you wish to get involved, please contact:


Monday, Wednesday, Friday  7:45 to 9:30am   (Maria)
Saturday 8:15 to 9:45am  (Alicia)
Tuesday and Thursday starting at 9:00 am   (Jacob)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Instructions for Restarting the San Pancho Garden

First, I would like to thank all of you for making it possible for us to create beauty, food and soil. It was truly a wonderful experience and very rewarding. Whoever is interested in continuing our efforts in growing a garden has a great start. There are friendly neighbors who will gladly help, and a garden that has been established. We placed the garden where the beds allow the drainage to flow back in to the river. It is a fertile piece of land, protected with a fence around it. There is water, hoses and tools, seed flats and an abundant amount of compost already made. There is more than one garden; in fact, there are several fenced gardens, and others that are along pathways with dug beds and amended soils. We would welcome any of the members of the community to take up the activity where we left it.

Most, if not all, beds were productive and provided food, flowers and herbs, and then were interplanted with a bean crop of several varieties to produce seed and stabilize the beds with their roots, as well as cover the beds with foliage to create a cover when the rains came.  We understand this was successful; that is, the garden is still there and continued to grow and produce food, was protected from the rain, and drained as well as produced seed. Our last communication in August/September, we heard that the garden was a jungle. We can only imagine the growth and abundance that remains.

Some suggestions for the future are as follows. See if you can find the beds and paths and begin to work where the garden allows you to start. Collect seed if there is any and keep it dry and in paper bags or glass jars in a ventilated room. Begin cutting down all the dead growth and clear an area, one at a time, until you can distinguish where the paths and the beds are. Cutting the weeds dry stocks will not disturb the beds, rather than digging out the roots, although in some cases you may have to.

Make a compost pile with all the roughage you take from the garden, or put it into existing compost. Once this is done, you will have reclaimed the garden and the space. This will take some effort, but within a few days, maybe a week, you will see the foundation of our work last year. There may be a lot of young growth intermittent with dead stalks. These could be weeds or last year’s crops gone to seed. Don’t just assume everything is to be composted. If the seedlings have sprouted, then you are well on your way to having a productive, diversified garden. Taking pictures and sending them to us will help if you need to identify what is there or to just keep us informed.

Let’s say there is a lot of green undergrowth and it looks like greens; ie, lettuce, spinach, chard, kale and so on. Then you are already there and need only to cut, thin and harvest and clear any weeds to make space. Also, you may find the pathways are covered with growth and also could be food or flowers, etc. We will see together…all in all, it’s a good fantasy! If, on the other hand, when you clear the garden beds, everything  is thick stalks and grasses and stickers, then cutting is the best first step.

Clear out the stalks, dig out the roots and grasses and bad weeds that have thorns, and then we will assess the next step. Maybe digging is needed to turn in the growth in the beds and skimming in the path to remove the weeds.  Possibly just skimming the beds will be the right action, and then top dressing with sifted compost; that is, digging into a finished compost pile or using compost that has been stockpiled along the fence. At any rate, sifting it through a screen and adding a four inch layer to the top of the bed and turning it into the top six inches and raising the bed would do it. Presto: ready for seeds or plants.

This is so interesting…you see we are preparing for winter and extending the growing season under hoop houses and cold frames , and thinking about  planning and designing for next spring --where you are beginning your spring season of growth in the garden now!

Love and appreciation,

Note:  If you need to refresh your memory on any of the steps such as starting seeds in flats, transplanting, creating beds, sift-turning, etc., just go back to older posts on this blog.  You can also use the search function.  Please feel free to send your questions by email.

Friday, July 29, 2011

6" per hour - 6" por hora

last tuesday morning we had a nice tropical shower, and although the rain lasted just under an hour amounting to about 1 3/4 of an inch, at one instance it really poured, with rainfall rates going up to 6" per hour...this is what we mean when we say that 'a river crosses the garden'...

el martes pasado tuvimos un buen chubasco mañanero, y aunque llovió por menos de una hora con una precipitación total de 45 mm (1 3/4"), en un instante llovió a cántaros, a razón de 6 pulgadas de lluvia por hora...esto es a lo que nos referimos cuando decimos que 'un río cruza el jardín'...

weather info from - información meteorológica de:
San Pancho Weather

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Zingiber & Salvia

Gingers (Zingiber officinale) are popping up in one bed where the zinnias are starting to wilt from too much water and humidity. Now I feel like planting those rhizomes everywhere!,

and we'll see if a large bed of chia (Salvia hispanica) will grow well in these (very rainny and humid) far they look beautiful anyway, with craters the size and shape of a horse hoof...hmm

Gengibres (Zingiber officinale) están saliendo en una cama donde las zinias están marchitándose por el exceso de agua y humedad. ¡Ahora me dan ganas de plantar esos rizomas por todos lados!,

y veremos si esta cama larga de chía (Salvia hispanica) crecerá bien en estas (muy lluviosas y húmedas) condiciones...hasta ahora se ven hermosas de todos modos, con cráteres del tamaño y forma de un casco de caballo...hmm

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hola Campesinos!

Greetings from Santa Fe!
Juaquin and I are doing well, despite the fact that the whole neighborhood is going up in smoke! (the 12,000 residents of Los Alamos (site of the Manhatan project and atomic bomb research and development) have been evacuated because of a forest fire that has already burnt 50,000 acres in 2 days is threatening the town and the nuclear lab). We have 12,000 people coming down to Santa Fe to seek shelter.

¡Saludos desde Santa Fe!
A Juaquín y a mí nos va bien, a pesar del hecho de que la vecindario entero está en humo! (los 12,000 residentes de Los Alamos, localidad del proyecto Manhatan y un laboratorio que hace investigación y desarrollo de bombas atómicas, han sido evacuados debido a un incendio forestal que ha quemado 50,000 acres en dos días amenazando al pueblo y el laboratorio nuclear). 12,000 personas están viniendo a Santa Fe a buscar refugio.

Juaquin and I have just started working on the creation of a 1/2 acre farm in town. It's called Dandelion Ranch and is very promising. We'll be blending the biodynamic French-intensive technique with a multitude of permaculture principles. We'll be using Dandelion Ranch as a showcase and teaching ground, with the intent to inspire and support urban farming in Santa Fe.

Juaquín y yo acabamos de empezar a trabajar en la creación de una granja de 1/2 acre en el pueblo. Se llama Dandelion Ranch ("Rancho Diente de León") y es muy prometedor. Estaremos mezclando la técnica biodinámica francés-intensiva con una multitud de principios de permacultura. Usaremos a Dandelion Ranch como un escaparate y campo de enseñanza, con la intención de inspirar y apoyar la agricultura urbana en Santa Fe.

We are also helping friends at another farm, Synergia Ranch, residence of many of the scientists who pioneered the Biosphere 2. Last week alone, we planted 300 tomato plants, 200 basil plants and a few hundred other varieties of chard, peppers, eggplants and celery. Juaquin has been going to Colorado to get seedlings from his friend Rich at Abbondanza farm.

We hope all is well in your world. Sending bundles of love to you all.

PS. If you wish to follow the evolution of Dandelion Ranch, sign up with your email on the Dandelion Ranch's blog (click on image below)

También estamos ayudando a unos amigos en otra granja, Synergia Ranch ("Rancho Sinergia"), residencia de muchos científicos pioneros de Biosphere 2 ("Biósfera 2"). Sólo la semana pasada, plantamos 300 jitomates, 200 albahacas y otros cientos de plantas de variedades de acelga, pimientos, berenjenas y apios. Juaquín ha estado llendo a Colorado para obtener plántulas de su amigo Rich de Abbondanza farm.

Esperamos que todo marche bien en su mundo. Mandando un bonche de amor a todos ustedes.

PS. Si quieren seguir la evolución de Dandelion Ranch, inscríbanse con su correo electrónico en el blog del rancho (dar click en la imagen de abajo).