Summer with a Sembrador by Boden Franklin

Garden ready to irrigate in San Cristobal

On days that I work at the farm in Chamisal, I step out my front door at 5:45am. That early in the morning, the muted pink glow of the sun has just begun to color the lowest valleys and ridges of the Sangre de Cristos east of San Cristobal. The timid light of the early morning accents the intricate network of cañoncitos that bring our valley’s water down from the high mountains into our acequias, to our fields, orchards and gardens. As if in an early morning greeting, my corn patch rustles in the gentle wind, proudly waving its newly grown leaves and tassels. In this moment of stillness, as the cool morning air washes over my sleepy face, all I can think is ‘I hope my car breaks down on my way to Chamisal. Then I can get a couple more hours of sleep on the side of the highway.’ 

Perhaps the most rewarding part of work at Chicoyole farm has been the slow subtle embodied learning that comes with working with the land. Learning to recognize the plants that surround me, understanding their personalities, their likes and dislikes, their uses. Understanding that wild lettuce eases pain and daisies give a boost to your immune system; how plumajillo stops bleeding and malva helps your soil retain moisture. To cultivate a garden with an eye for the value of every plant is to move with constant gratitude and respect as you choose which ones you encourage and which you remove. I have grown to know the land, both at my home garden in San Cristobal and at the farm in Chamisal, much more intimately through this process, and as I know it better I feel more securely bound to this place, more implicated in the work to advocate for our land and water. As I learn to tend the land, the land is tending to me, offering back food and remedios, and cultivating within me a sense of peace and belonging. 

Beautiful diverse collection of beans

The plants in my garden that have proven most resilient, growing the fastest with the least quality soil and minimal water, come from a handful of seed balls made by some of our youngest community members at the Dia de San Ysidro celebration in Chimayo back in May. I planted these without much expectation for success, in an area next to my corn patch that had not been irrigated in over 25 years. I was shocked to see them develop in just a few weeks into healthy clusterings of corn, beans, squash, garbanzos and grasses. I want to send a thank you to all the young people who contributed to the seed ball making. Your green thumbs are responsible for my favorite part of my garden. 

Squash, corn and beans popping out of the ground. They came from a Seed Ball made by Barrios Unidos and YLI youth.

Irrigating is always the highlight of my week. I love traversing my neighbors field to open the compuerta and walking the water down our lindero and into the gardens. Each week I notice new plants growing along the acequia, some in flower, some going to seed. Irrigation day is my weekly check in with my upstream neighbor. We catch up across our fence line as I wait for the water to make it down to the lower field, and in that time we exchange news about the valley, the water and the changing plants and flowers around us. As I become increasingly involved with my acequia, I understand how all of our acequias water more than our fields, orchards and gardens, they water the roots of our communities. 

A photo of la pala y las flores along the lindero, or sangria, which flows from Acequia del Medio to the garden
A farmer in San Cristobal clearing out the furrows to help the water flow

Wishing everyone a bountiful harvest season! ¡Que vivan las acequias!

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