Latina Authors and Their Muses.

Latina Authors and Their Muses has just been published!

I feel so honored to be part of this wonderful book! Editor extraordinaire Mayra Calvani has worked so hard at it…and now we have los buenos resultados.

You can get it now at Amazon

Press Release

Wisdom and Inspiration from Latina Authors in New Compilation

Latina Authors and Their Muses features advice from 40 women writers

As the Hispanic American population of the U.S. increases, with influences ranging from Mexico to Central America and the Caribbean, so does interest in literature inspired by those cultures. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by delving into Latina Authors and Their Muses.

Award-winning author Mayra Calvani has now edited a collection of interviews with 40 Latina authors living in the U.S. and writing in English. Latina Authors and Their Muses is an inspirational and informative book focusing on the craft of writing and the business of publishing, one that provides aspiring writers with the nuts and bolts of the business.

“I had the opportunity to meet Carmen Dolores Hernandez,  the book review editor at El Nuevo Día newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico, when she visited me in Brussels,” says Calvani. “She’d published some of my short stories and novel excerpts in Revista Domingo in the past, and I deeply admired her wisdom as a writer and woman of letters.

“She mentioned the anthology she had put together back in 1997, Puerto Rican Voices in English. I ordered a copy and became absorbed by the candor and insight of the authors as they talked about their backgrounds, books, and writing,” Calvani continues.

“Wouldn’t it be perfect to put together a similar anthology showcasing Latina authors writing in English in the United States? This book would not only showcase prominent figures but emerging voices as well, writers working on a wide range of genres from the literary to the commercial.”

The result of several years of research and interviews is Latina Authors and Their Muses. Writing in genres ranging from the literary to children’s picture books to fantasy novels to chick lit, and more, this remarkable group of talented authors shares their passion and commitment to their craft and to sharing their stories with the world in spite of the odds.

Latina Authors and Their Muses is a celebration of creativity, the writer’s life, and the passionate quest for spiritual and artistic freedom.

Read a chapter excerpt here:

About the editor:

Award-winning author Mayra Calvani has penned more than ten books for children and adults in genres ranging from picture books to nonfiction to paranormal fantasy novels. She’s had over 300 articles, short stories, interviews and reviews published in magazines such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal and Bloomsbury Review, among others. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she now resides in Brussels, Belgium.

Book info

Title: Latina Authors and Their Muses

Author: Mayra Calvani, Editor

Author web site:

Publisher: Twilight Times Books


Genre: Reference/Writing Skills

*Print ISBN: 978-1-60619-063-0

Format: 6×9 trade paperback; 340 pages; $19.95 USD

Distributors: Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Brodart, Follett, etc.

*eBook ISBN: 978-1-60619-062-3; $6.50 USD

Format: ebook in pdf, ePub, Kindle, Mobi, PRC, etc.

Distributors: Amazon Kindle; Apple iBookstore; Nook; Kobo Books; OmniLit; OverDrive, etc.

Release date: September 25, 2015 ebook; December 15, 2015 print

LCCN: 2015952662

Mayra Calvani, la editora!

Terry Graziano and the mystique of hats

Terry Graziano and the mystique of hats

Photo: Katharine Egli

Image and story originally published in Taos News

There is something about hats. They can change a look in an instant from shy to coy to sexy to…potentially dangerous.

Hats have been around for a long time serving different purposes, from purely utilitarian to status symbols and fashion statements.

“They can complement any outfit,” says Terry Graziano, a hat designer who has been making hats professionally since 1991. “Hats can change your mood, making you feel bolder or prettier, and even affect the mood of those around you. I am a little shy, but wearing a hat makes me feel more outgoing. They are great conversation pieces!”

Graziano became interested in fashion through her involvement with theater. She went to college for performance arts, but then discovered she didn’t want to be an actress.

“I worked in the theater for a while, as an administrator, and also did costume design for shows,” she said. “Then I started creating head pieces and found them fascinating: the colors, the textures, the infinite possibilities that they offered…”

The world of fashion soon became her main focus and she began producing her signature line of hats.

Evolution of a business: from craft fairs to an online shop

Graziano participated in many craft fairs at the beginning of her career.

“They were a great way to learn what different people liked, how to fit them properly, and to streamline my production process,” she said. “Fairs were also a fun experience.”

She also sold her hats in boutiques and department stores all over the country.

Then the Internet changed everything.

“It certainly affected the way I do business today,” she said. “I sell mostly through my website. Last time I checked, I had sold to twenty-two countries and forty different states. I was amazed!”

Today Graziano makes her living as a fulltime hat designer.

The versatility of hats

Graziano has created about fifty hats models, all fully lined for comfort and durability. But they “multiply” because she purposefully designs each style to be worn many different ways.

“That’s why designing one can take me from a few days to a whole month,” she said. “With each hat you will get at least four different looks, and some many more than that. I also create them in a manner that they can be adapted to a variety of fabrics for different seasons and occasions.”

She demonstrates how to wear the same hat to achieve different effects.

“Tilting the front will create an artistic look,” she said, “while tipping the brim over an eye makes you look slightly mysterious.”

The all-important silhouette

Getting the right silhouette is fundamental when designing any kind of garment, including hats.

For most designers, a piece begins with a silhouette.

“This is the first thing I take into consideration when I create a new model,” Graziano says. “I don’t sketch or draw, just picture the silhouette in my mind and work with the fabric until the idea is complete.”

Functional pieces

All her hats are “absolutely functional,” Graziano says. She doesn’t use any embellishments like feathers or beads.

“Everything that is part of the hat has a purpose,” she said, “including the ability to adjust them for head shape and size.”

Her hats are also eco-friendly as she uses only designer mill-end surplus fabrics to create them.

Can anybody wear a hat?

This is a question that Graziano hears often. Her answer is always an encouraging “yes.”

“Saying that you can’t wear a hat is like saying that you can’t wear a shirt,” she said. “Anyone can wear a hat and look great. It’s just a matter of experimenting and trying lots of different styles until you find one that makes you feel good.”

Finding the perfect hat

She recommends taking into account the face shape to find the perfect fit.

“Women who have a square face should wear a hat with a round or tilted brim,” she said. “For round faces, tall hats are good, since they help elongate the face. Those with oval faces are lucky… they can choose any style they want!”

It is also a good idea to make sure that the hat is in proportion to the entire body shape and height.

“Look at yourself wearing the hat from different angles in a full length mirror,” Graziano said. “And get the right hat size, of course. You don’t want it too tight or too loose. That’s why I make my hats adjustable in size so that you can create the fit that feels comfortable for you.”

Artistic influences

There are two artists that Graziano credits to having influenced her vision and fashion aesthetics.

One is Elsa Schiaparelli, an Italian-born designer who lived and worked in Paris in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.

“She fused art and fashion and had a terrific sense of humor,” Graziano said. “She had a surrealist bent in both her clothing and accessory designs, and created hats in unusual shapes, like a shoe. She was bold!”

The other is Claire McCardell, an American designer who created functional and stylish sportswear.

“She used ‘humble’ materials and natural fiber fabrics like denim and cotton, but made them look entirely new and elegant,” Graziano said. “She is credited with establishing the ‘American Look.’”

Express yourself through style

Ultimately, Graziano sees hats, and fashion in general, as powerful means of self-expression.

“There was a time when most people wore hats, but that isn’t the case anymore,” she said. “Now, wearing one lends you an air of individuality and character, so have fun, use your imagination and express yourself through your very own style.”

To find out more about Terry Graziano visit her website  Private consultations are also available in her studio by appointment.

Chef couple shares a passion for food

Chef couple at Medley share a passion for food

Story and picture originally published in Taos News

Photo: Katharine Egli

There is a new restaurant in town—Medley, that opened on May 28th. It is located where the Old Blinking Light used to be, but the owners, Chefs Wilks and Colleen Medley, want people to know one thing:

“This isn’t the renovated Old Blinking Light,” Wilks Medley said. “While we are happy and honored to own a place that so many people have great memories of, we are also a totally different restaurant.”

So, what’ new now?

The answer is simple: everything.

The couple spent several months designing the floor plan and doing massive renovations.

“Before, the venue was focused on entertainment,” he said, “but we are both chefs and we are focused on food, which required a total change. We invite everyone to come and see what we are offering now—a casual fine-dining experience.”

The Chef couple

Wilks and Colleen Medley didn’t set out to become chefs or restaurateurs. He went to engineering school at Boston University and she graduated from business school at Fredonia.

After discovering their vocation for food, they changed paths and attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

“But we didn’t meet there,” she said. “We actually met at a restaurant in Washington DC, after we had graduated, and worked together for a while.”

From Washington DC they moved to Los Angeles and spent three years there.

She worked for Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air as a pastry chef.

He ran Vibrato Grill & Jazz and resurrected a French restaurant in downtown LA, among other jobs.

“These were three exciting years,” he said. “We learned a lot, but there came a moment when we got tired of seeing concrete and cars all the time. We needed to be closer to the earth, to see dirt…”

A Christmas in Taos

As luck had it, when they were considering where to go next, Wilks Medley happened to have one day off in Christmas and came to Taos to ski. That was in 2013.

“Actually, I had been coming here since I was a kid,” Wilks said. “My family now lives right around the corner and I’ve always loved the town, but never thought we would move here until I found out that the Old Blinking Light was for sale. I came back to LA so excited…At first we just joked about it, but then Colleen came and saw it, and we realized we wanted to buy it.”

The couple placed a bid on the business and got it on September 15th, 2014.

“That was just the beginning,” he said. “We have been working really hard and bringing everything up to code. And here we are.”

“We both love to cook, eat, and dine,” she said. “Food is our passion and we like to share it.”

Sweet and savory

Her specialty is pastry. His is “everything else.”

“I don’t have the patience you need for pastry,” he admits.

“I bake whatever I like to eat,” she said. “I love French pastry; custards, cream caramel, pudding, and cakes.”

As for him, he just “likes to have fun while cooking.”

“I don’t follow these preconceived notions of what you can or can’t cook,” he said. “I take it to a level where it is really good and then I make it a little crazy and a little better than usual. I can cook anything but I prefer seafood. We have as much as we can reliably source in New Mexico.”

Her favorite dish is a Mexican chocolate pudding cake made with cinnamon Anglaise and spiced pepita brittle chocolate.

“It’s our biggest seller,” she said. “It has a bit of spice and it’s delicious.”

For him, it is steamed PEI mussels, made with tomatoes, chili flake, garlic, lemon, and parsley, and served with a baguette.

“This is my own spin on a dish that we both know quite well,” he said.

Embraced by the community

Medley has been opened for just a couple of months, but both chefs feel they have been “totally embraced by Taos.”

“We are so thankful for their warm welcoming,” she said. “We have heard so many stories about people getting married and celebrating their anniversaries here, year after year. It really gets us into the fabric of the community. The restaurant has a lot of history and goodwill, and we are happy to be part of it.”

Medley is located at 100 NM-150, El Prado

Phone: (575) 776-8787


Crab Cakes

Yield: about 14 cakes


3# cleaned crab meat

1 ea onion, 1/4” Diced

5 ea celery stalks, 1/4” diced

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 pint Panko bread crumbs

4 fl oz egg yolks, mixed

3 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp celery salt

2 tbsp kosher salt

2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. Sweat the onion, celery, and garlic in a pan with canola oil over medium heat, until the onion begins to turn translucent.
  2. Mix all of the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, with the cooked vegetables, and mix thoroughly. Mix using a stirring motion, not a smashing motion as this will preserve the larger chunks of crab.
  3. Portion into 4 oz portions.
  4. Heat a large pan with canola oil and sear both sides of the crab cake until nicely brown.
  5. Place the crab cakes in the oven for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees to heat through.
  6. Serve with sauce of your choice.

Pepita Brittle


8 oz butter, unsalted

1 cup sugar

1/8 cup corn syrup

1/8 cup water

1 ¼ cup pepitas

Pinch ancho chili powder

Pinch salt


  1. Toast pepitas in a 325⁰F oven for 15 minutes or until light brown.
  2. Combine butter, sugar, corn syrup, and water in saucepot.
  3. Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until temperature reaches hard crack stage, or 300⁰
  4. Mix in salt, chili powder, and pepitas – it is okay if mixture separates a little.
  5. Pour out onto parchment paper.
  6. Working quickly, roll out brittle with a rolling pin until thin.

* Caution, mixture is very hot *

  1. Store in airtight container.

Jethro’s Genuine Texas Barbeque: “the King and Queen of BBQ”

Originally published in Taos News

When the 2015 Best of Taos Award for best BBQ went to a restaurant located in Angel Fire, Shera Maher and Richard Nance knew exactly what kind of business they were going to get into.

“It was clear that Taos needed its own authentic BBQ place,” said Maher.

And that was the beginning of Jethro’s Genuine Texas Barbeque, a food stand located between Ace Hardware and McDonald’s.

They opened the business on Friday June 12th and hit the ground running.

“The first day we sold everything in an hour and a half,” Maher said. “We were pleasantly surprised.”

The menu

Their “sandwich special” is made of 1/3 pound of either pulled pork, sliced beef brisket, chopped beef brisket, or sliced Kielbasa sausage, with Texas sauce. It comes dressed with onions, pickles or jalapeños, and served on a toasted bun with chips. A drink is included.

There is also a brisket burrito served on a flour tortilla.

Sides are potato salad, coleslaw, and Texas pinto beans.

Beef brisket, pulled pork, sausages, and pork ribs are sold by the pound as well.

Just like in Texas

They prepare the meat the way it is traditionally done in Texas.

“We smoke it for at least eleven hours and sometimes up to thirteen hours,” Maher said. “The meat never touches the flame and is cooked only by the smoke, which circulates around it with temperatures between 250 and 300 degrees.”

As for the sauce, it isn’t added while the meat is being cooked, but afterwards.

“We make our own sauce from scratch, like everything else,” she said.

She likes the fact that the BBQ business is multicultural and has deep historical roots.

“Actually the word BBQ, barbacoa, came from the indigenous people of America,” she said. “Then, in Texas, we have strong black and Mexican culinary influences. They all added their own touch to the way the BBQ is done there and now we are bringing it to Taos.”

An enthusiastic reception

“You are the undisputed King and Queen of BBQ in New Mexico,” wrote Lenny Foster in the business’ Facebook page.

“We are very thankful to him and all our clients,” said Nance. “Such comments encourage us to continue working hard and offering Taos our very best.”

“I have worked in the restaurant business before,” Maher said, “but this is the only place where people have come up to me and say ‘thank you, we needed a place just like this one here.’ It’s really satisfying.”

A family business

Maher and Nance have an employee and friend, Joel Craig, who brought the big smoker and is the “sandwiches specialist,” but Jethro’s Genuine Texas Barbeque is mostly a family business.

Maher’s daughter, Savannah Hall, a UNM-Taos art student, works as a cashier. Her boyfriend Kyle Lavarnway pitches in sometimes.

“I like working here,” Hall said. “It’s fun to be around different people. And I eat BBQ every day. Everything is good so come get some food!”

The “uniformed discount”

Anyone who is wearing a public service uniform like EMS, firefighters and police officers can get a discount.

“We want to show appreciation to those who work so hard for our community,” Maher said.

Days, hours and more

Jethro’s Genuine Texas Barbeque is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from eleven in the morning until the last brisket or rib is gone.

“We also started catering, which is something we can do any day of the week,” Nance said. “We hope to be open more days in the future.”

“For catering, we offer desserts like apple cobbler and can tailor the menu to whatever people want for side dishes,” Maher said. “We just had the first catering gig from Palacio de Marquesa and are very excited about this branch of the business.”

They plan to stay in the same location for the rest of the summer and bring in an actual building before winter.

The owners

Maher is a jewelry designer and a seasonal rafting guide.

Nance has a building repair and garage door business and is also a river guide.

When they met, she first fell in love with his cooking.

“He made pork ribs and I gobbled them down,” she said. “I was so embarrassed later… I didn’t even use to eat pork back then!”

Nance learned the BBQ art from his uncles in Texas and has been cooking for over thirty years.

“As a river guide, he is used to cook for many people,” Maher said. “So we set out our outdoor kitchen like the ones you would find in a river trip.”

They have been partners and “very special friends” for four years.

“He helped me build my house and I am now helping him build his dream business,” she said. “Someone told me that when two people love each other, they become the keepers of each other’s dreams. That’s what we are doing now.”

Jethro’s Genuine Texas Barbeque is located 219 Paseo del Pueblo Sur.

Phone:  (575) 770-4317


All the pictures here are from the business’ Facebook page.

Immerse yourself in Spanish—intensive classes at SMU in Taos

Maria Dolores Gonzales

Maria Dolores Gonzales, Ph. D.

Originally published in Taos news

If you want to learn Spanish, but can’t commit to a regular eight or sixteen week class schedule, there is another option available: an intensive, six-day retreat at the SMU at Taos campus.

María Dolores Gonzales holds a Ph.D.  in Spanish Linguistics from the University of New Mexico. She has twenty-five years of experience teaching language. Gonzales has coordinated several Spanish language instruction programs and developed and implemented cultural competency training programs for public, private, and corporate settings.

Dr. Gonzales is also the executive director and founder of Bilingual Strategies, a language institute that currently offers Spanish-language immersion sessions, English/Spanish translation, and bilingual mediation.

“Bilingual Strategies Language Immersion Program gives the participants an opportunity to immerse themselves, for several days, in a relaxed environment,” she said. “They will interact with other participants to amplify their knowledge and language proficiency.”

SMU Campus Taos, New Mexico

Spanish in New Mexico

Many people go to Mexico, Costa Rica or Spain to take immersion courses in Spanish.

“So, why not have a program in New Mexico?” Gonzales asked. “It is more accessible and much less expensive than traveling abroad. Plus Spanish has a rich history in this area. New Mexico’s Spanish-speaking population dates back to 1598, when the first colonizers and settlers arrived with Juan de Oñate. It has survived for many generations, even after statehood in 1912, when the policy of ‘English Only’ was mandatory in the schools.”

And let’s not forget that the first newspaper in New Mexico was El Crepúsculo de la Libertad, a Spanish-language paper founded in 1834 here in Taos.

Meeting the needs of adult learners

Many years ago, while completing her graduate studies in Spanish Linguistics, Gonzales realized that there was a need to offer Spanish courses to adults who were eager to learn the language or to polish the skills they already had.

“However, for many adults enrolling in university classes was not an option,” she said.  “After participating as a faculty member of student-abroad trips to Spain, Mexico, and other Spanish-speaking countries, it became clear to me that a Spanish immersion program in New Mexico would meet the needs of our adult population.”

Upon retiring from the University of New Mexico, she contacted former colleagues who had similar interests and experience teaching Spanish and began to work on the program.

“We developed a curriculum using an immersion methodology,” she said. “We do not use the traditional classroom approach or textbooks, but rather ‘immersion’ in everyday activities. The students are immersed in Spanish just like we were when we learned our first language.”

The methodology

To have a successful immersion experience, participants need to be in an environment that exposes them to Spanish all day long.

“They need to live in the language 24/7,” Gonzales said. “They need to have breakfast, lunch and dinner conversations in Spanish.  Cook in Spanish. Practice yoga in Spanish.  Dance and sing in Spanish. Take walks in Spanish. Have fun learning Spanish!”

To accomplish all this, Gonzales said, a good immersion program must provide an ambience in which participants can dedicate themselves to complete their goals.

“Northern New Mexico, and specifically the beautiful SMU campus here in Taos, has all the elements to enhance their learning process,” she said.

Upcoming sessions

The next two sessions, which consist of six-day retreats, will run from September 20th to September 26th and from October 4th to October 10th.

For the September session, registration is still open until August 6th and for the October session, until August 20th.

“After all participants have registered, their names will be included in a drawing for one of two $50 Visa gift certificates,” Gonzales said.

Lodging and meals are available at the SMU campus for out-of-town participants.

“The program is open to both on-site participants and commuters,” said Gonzales. “On-site participants will be housed on the SMU campus and commuters will spend the day there, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. participating in all activities. They will return to their homes after the day’s session.”

How the program works

A question many people may have is, “Do I need to know Spanish, even if it’s just “un poquito,” to benefit from the classes?

Not necessarily. This program is designed to work with students who have different levels of Spanish.

“Some participants may have experience with Spanish and others may not,” said Gonzales. “Bilingual Strategies Language Institute is useful for those who wish to revitalize the Spanish they grew up hearing but might not necessarily feel confident speaking as well as for those who have a desire to realize their dream of learning a second language. The fact that our classes are small will allow the instructors to give individualized attention to each student, whatever their level of Spanish.”

The classes will be focused on the participants’ needs and personal language experience.

“All the instructors have extensive experience working in an immersion environment,” Gonzales said.

Some topics to be discussed are the variations of Spanish spoken in different countries and regions, similarities in cultural core values and traditions, differences in vocabulary, and cultural nuances and stereotypes.

Getting results

“Upon completion of the language immersion program, participants will take with them a better understanding of the diversity of the language and cultures of the Spanish-speaking world,” said Gonzales. “They will also have more confidence in speaking Spanish and a sense of accomplishment.”

To register or find out more about the program visit, contact Dr. Gonzales at 505-238-2466 or email her,

SMU in Taos campus at Fort Burgwin is located at 6580 Highway 518, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico.

Meet the Hemptress


Originally published in Taos News

Ruth Fahrbacht bought a hemp guitar strap from a vendor in Kit Carson Park back in 1997 and loved its durability and strength.

“It was not like any other strap I had owned,” she said.

From that moment on, she started researching and learning as much as she could about hemp.

“I began to study hemp and marijuana relativity and irrelativity,” she said. “In the process, I found out the many uses of hemp.”

In 1998 she attended the first Hemp Expo in Santa Cruz, California.

In 1999, after returning from a hemp research trip to Thailand, Nepal, India and Tibet, Fahrbacht decided to create her own hemp company, Taos Hemp LLC.

The business allowed her to combine her Buddhist philosophy with the work of her hands.           Taos Hemp began its cottage industry on the West Rim Mesa of Taos, in an off-grid, solar home.

Today Fahrbacht sells her own brand, called Dharma bags, made of 100% hemp. She is also known as “the Hemptress.”

“With the emphasis on no stress,” she said. “Oh, by the way, it also accounts for ‘great tress.’ Hemp fiber tresses are the strongest and longest on the planet.”

Fahrbacht considers herself a natural person. She lives and works in an eco-friendly way.

“My hogan (in Dine hogan means ‘blessing way’) is built out of straw bale, adobe, stone, and wood,” she said. “It has passive solar and active solar. The solar panels, with a kilowatt of electricity, run 2200 square feet of dwelling.”

Why hemp?

Fahrbacht describes hemp as “a miracle plant that can heal the Earth.”

“I like to say hemp covers it all,” she said, “from food, clothing, paper, shelter, medicine, fuel, and plastic composites to remediation of toxic soil. Also, economic recovery: it can provide jobs for farmers and individuals in a cooperative setting.”

Hemp is the second highest protein next to soy, high in vitamin E and magnesium. Hemp oil is also used in the cosmetic industry.

“It is a superb moisturizer and detoxifier at the same time,” Fahrbacht said.

A Taos-based skincare company, Nabis Naturals, uses hempseed oil as an active ingredient to produce a moisturizing serum and a cream.

Hempseeds contain Omega-6 and Omega-3, essential fatty acids with anti-inflammatory properties. They can also be used to make butter, milk, and protein powder.

The legal fate of hemp

Fahrbacht points out that hemp is not a drug.

“Hempseed has very, very little amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), just .03%. THC is the primary ingredient in marijuana cannabis,” she said. “Using hemp products will not give anyone a high!”

It is not legal to grow hemp in New Mexico right now. But Senate Bill 94 (SB94) would authorize the farming, production, and sale of industrial hemp in New Mexico, if successfully passed. Under this bill, New Mexico residents could be licensed to produce and distribute hemp.

“The Federal 2014 Farm Bill allows hemp, when individual states pass the pro hemp legislation,” Fahrbacht said. “Then they can safely do pilot studies and test plots to determine the correct cultivars.”

There may a long way to go, though. At federal level, hemp is still classified as a Controlled Substance Schedule 1— along with heroin and its cousin marijuana.

“In 2013 twenty-one states introduced industrial hemp legislation, but current federal policy still places a barrier on production,” Fahrbacht said. “The irony of this is that more industrial hemp fiber, seed and oil is exported to the United States than to any other country.”

Hemp history

Hemp is one of the oldest cultivated plants. Its use can be traced back to 8000 B.C.

“Hemp was known by the ancient cultures of China, Egypt, and Persia,” Fahrbacht said. “It was used to make textiles and for cosmetic purposes.”

However, we don’t have to go that far in time. Hemp it is also part of American history. The United States’ declaration of independence was written on hemp paper.

“Washington and Jefferson demanded that the colonists grow hemp for their clothing, food, and maybe building materials,” Fahrbacht said. “Hemp paper requires no bleach, no heavy dioxin like the tree pulp industry which has polluted our rivers and cut down our virgin forests for paper.”

Hemp production was endorsed by the government in the 30’s and during World War II because it was needed to make ropes for Navy ships.

“Henry Ford made a hemp car and ran it on hemp fuel,” said Fahrbacht. “The question is: what became of Ford’s idea? Guess he was run off the road by Dupont (plastics), Eli Lilly (pharmaceuticals), Hearst (paper), Andrew Mellon (friend with Hearst) and Harry Anslinger (chief of Narcotics Bureau). We still have huge lobbies against hemp in these arenas today.”

Despite the obstacles, Fahrbacht is convinced that a green future will include hemp.

“It will propel us into the age of self-reliant, self-sustaining livelihoods,” she said. “Let’s get together behind the production of the strongest fiber crop on the planet.”

Not just horsing around: the healing power of equines

Star and Buck, rescue horses

Originally published in Taos News

Photos taken from Equine Spirit Sanctuary’s website

Horses and kids tend to do well together. Equine-assisted therapy produces exceptionally good results due to the social and responsive nature of the horses and the natural curiosity of kids.

“There is just something about the horse,” said Ruth Bourgeois, owner and director of the Equine Spirit Sanctuary. “Horses hold a special captivation for persons of all ages, that we don’t seem to outgrow. If a simple picture of a horse has the power to emotionally move us, imagine the strength and effect of an actual interaction.”

To facilitate such interaction, Bourgeois created Horses Helping Kids, a program that combines equine-assisted learning and therapeutic riding at Equine Spirit Sanctuary. The program includes grooming and leading exercises as well as riding.

Two happy riders

Danny O’Rourke has been part of the program for over three years. He is eleven years old.

“Horses have huge hearts and are so good with kids,” said his mother, Karin Johnson. “No matter how Danny is feeling before we get to the Equine Spirit Sanctuary, he is always so happy there…that’s a high point in his life. Ruth and all her volunteer staff are doing a great job. We hope they can build an indoor arena so the lessons can take place year around.”

O’Rourke goes riding once a week during spring and summer.

“I love Dustee,” he said. “He’s an old good horse! But I like Hava, Kat and Elvis too.”

Miquella Brown is nine years old and also enjoys her rides, which can last up to thirty minutes.

“This is the only therapy she really likes,” said her mother, Josephine Brown. “She is nonverbal, but she gets the biggest smile when we are driving toward the sanctuary.”

A lesson

A typical lesson is one hour in length and consists of preparation, grooming, and riding—the most fun part of it, but also one that requires the most preparation and care.

“The riding part includes warm-up, stretching, balance and flexibility exercises, games on horseback, and learning basic riding skills as appropriate for the client’s age and abilities,” said Bourgeois, PATH, Intl. accredited therapeutic riding instructor, who directs and supervises the program.

“The objective is not to teach extensive horsemanship skills, although horse handling and riding are part of the program,” Bourgeois said. “The focus is on more on personal growth and life skills, with specially designed exercises to improve self-esteem and self-awareness, combining body awareness exercises with motor planning and verbal communication, in a supportive setting.”

Fulfilling a need

Bourgeois recognized the need for a therapeutic riding program in Taos County when she looked at the figures.

“Currently there are around five hundred learning disabled persons between the ages of three and twenty two in the special education classes in the Taos School system, according to data from the schools,” she said. “We care about these kids and want to offer them something special that they cannot get through any other local program.”

She sees kids and horses as “a natural combination.”

“And for children with disabilities, animal companionship is particularly invaluable, as they may have trouble making friends with kids their own ages,” she said. “Horses give children an opportunity to connect with another living being, which is extremely important to any child’s development.”

The Sanctuary

Equine Spirit Sanctuary is a non-profit, volunteer-based healing center, founded in 2005. The organization’s vision is to provide horse rescue and programs for people.

“It is the culmination of my dream to bring people and horses together,” she said. “Since I was a child, I have loved horses. I have a degree in horse husbandry and worked for years in the horse industry until I came to Taos. Here, all my life experience and horse background came together, to create a sanctuary for these beautiful and intelligent animals.”

As a nonprofit organization, Equine Spirit Sanctuary depends on the generosity of its sponsors and volunteers.

Healing with horses

Equine Spirit Sanctuary offers an equine-assisted learning and therapy program for persons of all ages in addition to the Horses Helping Kids program.

“I am most excited about the potential of this program. Horses have a natural healing power that has been proven effective in physical, mental, and emotional therapy,” said Bourgeois. “Besides the innate healing energy that they possess, interacting with horses has many other benefits.”

One of them has to do with the most visible trait of a horse —its size.

“Horses are big, often intimidating animals,” said Bourgeois. “Because of this, interacting with a horse immediately challenges issues of fear and confidence. Horses are also incredibly responsive to human emotion and action. By working with them, people learn about leadership, taking responsibility, and teamwork. By honoring and respecting the spirit of the horses, they then are a source of joy and inspiration to the people whose lives they touch.”

A dream come true

Writer and designer Susan Washburn interviewed Bourgeois for her book My Horse, My Self: Life Lessons From Taos Horsewomen.

“I was nearly moved to tears by what she told me about her life, which was, to put it mildly, filled with obstacles, from difficult relationships to a bout of intractable fibromyalgia,” Washburn said. “I believe Ruth’s personal suffering and the healing influence she felt from her own horses are the wellspring of the deep compassion she has for both equines and humans. Equine Spirit Sanctuary has been a lifelong dream of hers and it is so gratifying to see it come to fruition with the acquisition of a permanent home for this wonderful interspecies community.”

That dream has become a reality. In May 2015, Equine Spirit Sanctuary was able to buy the property they had been renting for over seven years.

“Now we have a forever home,” Bourgeois said, “and we are looking forward to being able to do more with our programs, for more people.”

Equine Spirit Sanctuary is located at 13 Los Caballos Road Ranchos de Taos

Phone: (575) 758 1212

Dustee, lesson horse