Thursday, December 12, 2013

Too Much Family History

Bonnie and Clyde? No! Stewart and Eva, family friends in Maine

I know that you don't come to this blog to hear about my family history, although that's what I've been going on about lately. This is supposed to be a blog about a New Englander coming to New Mexico. However, I am deep into the search for clues to my family's past and for the next little while I will be toiling away on family trees, telling family stories, and posting about the process of searching for ancestors over on the Remember blog.

I cordially invite you to come along on my journey into the past. In the meantime, please check back here on The Zees Go West, because there will surely be posts here from time to time.

I hope that you all will have the happiest of holiday seasons--Merry! Happy! Joyous!

~Clair Z.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Organizing Family Memories

Safe at last

As I mentioned in the last post, I have a large collection of family history "stuff"--photos, files of information about families and individuals, written and email correspondence about our history and our stories--just lots and lots of stuff.

Determined to share what I have with my family, back in 2010 I started a family history blog called Remember. At first, I just pulled out photos at random and wrote about them. I liked the result, but I could see that I was going to have to change my approach so that the results were more cohesive and organized and that each family was clearly delineated.

There's that organized word again. I thought that I might begin by sorting and labeling photos, a job that soon had me feeling overwhelmed all over again. I could still see those boxes of files of papers out of the corner of my eye. I wanted to go through everything once and have something to show for my efforts.

After a lot of thought, I finally came up with an approach that works for me. I hope that it might be of help (or an inspiration) for someone out there who is trying to organize their own family history chaos. I'll put the materials needed in bold type.

1. Get some great big binders and label each with a family name.

2.  Sort everything--papers, correspondence, photos--by family group. and put the materials with, not in each binder. Don't fasten anything in yet, this is a rough sort.

3. Get some dividers (this is so much fun if you, like me, like to shop for office supplies). Label them for individuals within the family, and start inserting everything into the binder in the order that pleases you. Punch holes in copies only. Original documents (like birth certificates) go into individual heavyweight non-acid sheet protectors.

4. Large photos can also go into sheet protectors. I heaved a sigh of relief when this step was done, because I knew these irreplaceable photos were safe at last. They can be scanned without any further handling.

5. Smaller photos can go into a large envelope (for now) labeled with the family name. Seal the envelope, cut off one end so it will go into the binder sideways, then punch holes into the edge of the envelope, being careful not to harm any photos, so it can be filed in the binder with the appropriate family. You can place a paper clip on the open end to keep photos from sliding out. Of course, after this step you will find a nice book or website about archival handling of photos and follow the directions to store these small photos properly. For me, having them safely in an envelope was better than loose in a box. One step at a time. 

Envelope for temporary storage of small photos, sorted by family

Now that I could see what information I had for each family, I wanted to put up some family trees on the Remember blog--my mother's, my father's, my husband's mother's, and my husband's father's, and one for my son's ancestors, since he comes from my former marriage to a Dutchman. Then, when I blogged about each individual I could start with a family tree to locate that person in the family.

While looking around for family tree templates, I found the perfect way to display my information by using the website WikiTree. WikiTree allows me to enter and save information about each person, link families together on a family tree, and add to any of my records when I have more information. Better still, they have "tree widgets" for my blog which will reflect any changes I make to any of my records on WikiTree. I also like how WikiTree will let me set privacy levels, and even allow trusted family members (or distant relatives) to make changes and additions to my records, but only if I want them to do so.

So, that's how I got things organized. Next time, I'll tell you about a few surprises I came across while learning about our family's history. For now, take a look at the beginning of my father's family tree. He is the mystery man in the family, so I really get excited when I find out any little thing about his ancestors. 

embeddable family tree updated live from WikiTree

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why the Posts Here are Dwindling: Blame My Family!

I haven't been posting much here because I've been working on a huge and chaotic family history project. You can see the beginning of the results on my family history blog, Remember

Some came from Germany

If you've ever worked on your family's history, you'll know that it's hard to figure out where to start, especially if you are the holder of your family's documents and photos. I have piles of files of information, some inherited from my parents and some containing my own research from the last time I worked on the project in 1999. It's wonderful stuff--Birth/marriage/death certificates, probate records, and census sheets; and my favorites: Photos, interviews, and stories. 

Did I refer to this project as huge? To give you an idea of the possibilities: If you wanted to go back as far as your great-great-great grandparents, you would have 16 pairs of ancestors. Now, here is where it gets interesting. According to an article (Ten Effective Strategies for Building a Family Tree) from GenealogyInTime Magazine: 
Assume each pair had three children, who in turn had three children, who in turn had three children. If we roll the clock forward, after five generations you appear. If you do the math, you will find this will produce 365 people down to your generation. But, wait a minute; you have 16 pairs of great-great-great-grandparents. This means your extended family tree has 16 x 365 = 5,840 potential people in it!
Of course, my mother's family never stopped at having a mere three children--that was for sissies. Her parents had 13 children, her dad was one of 13, and her oldest sister had 12 kids! The sheer numbers are overwhelming.

I don't just have my mother's family (England, U.S., Canada) to document; there is my father's family (origins very mysterious), my husband's parents' families (Italy, Germany), and my son's family (The Netherlands). Add in the fact that our own is a blended family (his, mine, and ours) and the complications are endless.

Dutch boy with tulips (my son)

So, how did I find a way to start telling the family story? I want to share the process, the pitfalls, and the shocking surprises with you in the next few posts here on The Zees. In the meantime, if you look at nothing else on the Remember blog, I hope that you will read the story Mary and Amalio Talk About Life in an Italian Town in the 1920s, because this kind of record is why I wanted to make a family history blog in the first place.

Newly arrived in America

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Quick Tour Around New Mexico

Ever wonder what it's really like in New Mexico? This song, written and recorded by the group Richmond, and the accompanying video from the New Mexico Tourism Department, might give you an idea. Just don't all come rushing on down here; we like our big, empty spaces!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Busy Needles

I've been making a blog for my knitting group over much of the past year. It's a good place for our group to keep a record of the projects we've done and the recipes and patterns we've shared. It's also a way to keep in touch with the knitters who travel. You can see it at Sit, Stitch, Share, Snack.

Because I've been busy documenting everything going on around me, I suddenly realized that I hadn't been getting a record of my own projects. Since I was taking photos for the knitting blog today anyway, I thought I'd share the results with you here.

Heritage Trellis Lace Cowl; Petey wouldn't get off!
The pattern is available online for free from Cascade Yarns.
I used Knit Picks wool yarn left over from the mittens below.

Terrible picture of my sweater, knit from Knit Picks Shine Sport Weight Yarn--a soft blend of cotton and modal (a beech wood fiber). I was in a rush to get the shot before Petey jumped in to model.

Mittens with deer; the pattern for these came with a big bag of yarn from Knit Picks, a gift from my husband. This is the second pair I've made; the first pair is shown here. I have enough mittens now and am using the rest of the yarn for projects like the lace cowl above. 

Back side of mittens. You can see I did something strange when reading the pattern--I didn't realize these were so different until looking at these photos. It was probably because there was quite a bit of time between the knitting of the first and second mittens!

Now, this is a closeup of the pair of socks that I first made from a skein of Noro Silk Garden yarn--I loved the colors, but I hated the socks and never even put them on. So, I unraveled the socks...

...and used the yarn to make this shrug, which I like much better.

And what knitter can't use another pair of wool socks?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Southwestern Autumn

Organ Mountains in the distance

I suppose that anyone who has lived in New England will always compare autumn foliage elsewhere to the blazing maples of memory. 

Picacho Peak is hiding on the left

However, I loved these golden leaves against the deep blue Southwestern skies, seen as we rode our bikes yesterday along La Llorona Trail. The warm October afternoon and the sight of the Organ Mountains and Picacho Peak in the distance didn't hurt, either. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Pretty Room

This post is really for my kids. I came across this old photo of the Pretty Room in the house on High Street, which I've written about before on this blog. (Follow the links and you'll find the story about how we came to live in our very own 1770 New Hampshire Colonial home, ghosts and all).

This was the room that always felt like a quiet, peaceful island in the middle of a busy house. When the window behind the sofa was open you could smell the garden and the little white climbing roses. It makes me smile to think of it.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Beep Beep

The City of Las Cruces, together with New Mexico State University and several health initiative and planning organizations, has published a booklet called the Las Cruces Prescription Trails Program Walking Trail Guide. The very first walk it describes brought us to Tellbrook Park, a small neighborhood park tucked into a side street over on the other side of town. 

I don't think we would have found this little gem without the booklet. We have friends who live nearby who had never heard of the place. 

On one side of the park there was a shady neighborhood of lovely homes. The view in the other direction...

... looked out over the desert, toward the valley and the distant Robledo Mountains. Back inside the park...

we found groupings of native plants and...

many cacti. We spotted some white-winged doves up in this odd-looking tree.

This green lawn made us stop a while; green grass being a real rarity where we live in the Chihuahuan Desert. Now, this is the part where you will need to do some careful looking--a bit of imagination will help, too. On the far side of the lawn you might just be able to make out three little rabbits, nibbling away at the grass. 

I was wishing for a big camera, or a telephoto lens, but had to make do with my iPhone camera. Glancing over to the other side of the lawn, we spotted a roadrunner. 

I think this speedy bird must be Beez's totem; roadrunners show up wherever he goes. I never get good photos of them. This was the best of the many that I took that morning, as the roadrunner checked out the bunnies across the way. 

Remember that you are using your imagination, please. The roadrunner greeted the rabbits like they were old friends. The four of them played a crazy game of Beep-Beep-Bunny tag all around the lawn, then away down a desert trail, around some cactus, down into a big arroyo, and out of sight. 

I have no YouTube video of the game to prove it, but I'm sure you believe me. You can see it with your imagination, right?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

On the Way to Get Some Pumpkin Empanadas

I thought you might like to listen to some mariachi music to get you in a Las Cruces mood...

Fall in southern New Mexico is fiesta time; it's time for parades (it seems like every weekend), the Southern New Mexico State Fair and Rodeo, The Whole Enchilada Fiesta (known locally as TWEF), various wine and jazz festivals, hot air balloon events, and Dia de los Muertos. Coming in November are the International Mariachi Conference and the Renaissance ArtsFaire. You can see a calendar for this year's events here.

The high desert weather cooperates, of course. Chilly nights make for good sleeping, and the mornings warm right up, but the days don't get too hot.

With the cooler weather, our appetites start to return. Yesterday Beez and I thought that some pumpkin empanadas would make a good snack, so we headed out to (what else?) La Fiesta, the best bakery we know.

Here is what we saw along the way. I hope that mariachi music is still playing while you check out this amazing truck. The art work makes me look forward to el Dia de los Muertos.

If we were back in New Hampshire, we would be sipping fresh apple cider and munching on buffalo burgers at the Deerfield Fair. This truck (and those empanadas) tell us that we are, indeed, in a very different land.

"As skeleton-happy New Mexicans know, honoring departed souls is not some eerie voyage into the macabre—in fact, it’s an annual cause for celebration" ~Miranda Mirklein

Under the hood

The hood itself

Detail on the back of the truck

Friday, September 27, 2013

Thinking Ahead to Winter

Later note, October 7, 2013: Mystery solved, thanks to a friend who loves research. This is apparently a bagworm, and you can read all about its life and habits here.

These little guys are all around our patio. The caterpillar is somehow making that case that you see hanging down. At this point, he is still able to crawl around, dragging his case behind him and looking for the best place to settle in for the upcoming colder weather. Eventually, he will seal up the end and think his caterpillar thoughts until he is ready to come back out for the big reveal. 

I have no idea what he will turn into. Do you?

The completed case could easily be mistaken for a piece of wood a couple of inches long. Some even have very convincing "twigs" sticking out of them. Pretty amazing. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Catwalk is No More

In a recent post, ironically titled Desert Dwellers in Search of Water, I told you about our visit to the Catwalk Trail along Whitewater Creek in Glenwood, New Mexico. We were lucky to have seen and walked this historic trail, because the recent disastrous flooding has wiped it out.

Thanks go to Facebook friend, Alison, for alerting me to the terrible situation. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

These Are the Colors of Fall Around Here

I always get nostalgic for the beautiful foliage and crisp air in New Hampshire at this time of year, but we have a different set of colors (and some much warmer air) to love here in New Mexico. 

The skies range from deep blue overhead to a near-turquoise near the mountains. The chile plants are a dark green, and now that the green chiles have been harvested the scarlet of the red chiles starts to shine out in the fields.

Thanks, Beez, for that last photo. Mine was way out of focus.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Morning Glories, Cotton Fields, Gray Skies

We are lucky to have so many places for bike rides all around our neighborhood. We can travel along quiet back roads through suburban and farm areas. We can catch one end of the paved bike trail that circumnavigates the nearby city and travel for miles paralleling residential and university streets. And we can ride the many miles of hard-packed dirt trails next to the irrigation ditches that bring water to field crops throughout the Mesilla Valley.

This morning we tried one of the ditch trails close to our house and found that it took us past this cotton field. I'm sure the farmer probably isn't as delighted as I was to see these morning glories mixed in with his cotton crop, but I loved the picture they made in the early morning light of a cloudy day.

Look closely to see the cotton bolls forming at the bottom right. 

This trail had good stretches that took us under shady trees, then it opened to this view of the Dona Ana Mountains. With an early start, we had plenty of time to ride before the sun heated up too much. I love a good, flat, cool ride!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Desert Dwellers in Search of Water

In the desert southwest, it seems that we have either too little or too much water at any given time.
Check out that flooded road ahead!

We're enjoying a pretty good monsoon season this year. In some places in New Mexico, we hear that the clouds pile up every afternoon and the rain comes down, just like clockwork. We aren't always so lucky here in the Mesilla Valley--the clouds often seem to slide on by (a friend calls it the teflon effect) to drop their moisture somewhere else. However, we've managed to get 5.67 " of rain so far this year, spread out over 37 rain days. Not a lot, but more than we've received in some years. Keep reading to find out about a place just up the road (in New Mexico terms) that has almost too much water at times.

Sidebar: I just finished reading The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton. The protagonist, an American librarian called Fi, has taken on a project to deliver books by camel to the farthest reaches of the Kenyan desert, spreading literacy to wandering peoples who might never have held a book before. After spending some time in a place where every drop of water is precious, Fi finds herself dreaming about water in all its lovely forms, and especially the ways she is used to lavishing it on herself back home in America--luxurious shampoos, deep baths, big drinks of icy water, and so on. I wish I could share the exact quote about her water dream with you, but the book is already back at the library. (I hope you get a chance to read it, as it is a good story that also raises questions about foreign aid and bringing "progress" to traditional peoples).

Back to the idea of water here in New Mexico. As a former New Englander living in the desert southwest, the smallest (and briefest) puddle will stop me short, and I long for the sight of a flowing stream.  Fi's dream is one that I might have had. Lovely, cool, flowing water...

And so, as a Labor Day gift to ourselves, we set off in search of water. In only three hours by car, we found it up in Catron County, near a little town called Glenwood, on the Catwalk Trail along Whitewater Creek in the Gila National Forest.

Here's where that monsoon rainfall comes in. The Catwalk Trail area is open only from 8AM to 1PM during the monsoons, because it is one of the places where the rain comes down in serious amounts in the afternoons. Because the trail goes up a box canyon, any rain at all can bring dangerous flash flooding and debris flows. The roads into the area can become impassable and downright dangerous.

Speaking of dangers, we got a kick (sort of) out of this signboard at the entrance to the trail, which warned happy hikers of the possible troubles ahead. From the left, we were told that we might encounter flooding, rabid foxes, cougars, bears, dry conditions (no open fires or fireworks, please), falling rocks, more bears becoming angry due to the presence of dogs, and rattlesnakes. To round out the list, there was also a sign showing the Statue of Liberty and promising justice for all (which seemed somehow threatening under the circumstances). 

In spite of the warnings, the picnic area looked rather inviting. There were some immense shade trees that we thought might be sycamores. 

And here it was: Lovely flowing water at last! The creek was deceptively deep in the middle, flowing fast, and it was very, very cold. 

Further up the trail were the catwalks, which apparently were first put in during the late 1800s for workers who maintained a water pipe leading to an old mill at the mouth of the canyon. The walkways were eventually improved and strengthened, and became the Catwalk Trail we see today. 

Every once in a while, as we moved up the trail, there were more signs reminding us to watch for rattlesnakes. By the way, have you ever seen a rattlesnake in the wild? They are usually very difficult to spot, as they blend in to their surroundings so well--good thing they have that rattle to warn us when we get too close. I'm speaking theoretically now, as we didn't actually see any snakes (or cougars, rabid foxes, or bears) during our walk, though I'm sure they were out there. 

The day in the Gila wasn't terrifically hot, as New Mexican summer days go--only in the high 80s. However, because of the high altitude (something like 5800 feet), it felt blazing in the sunshine and quite cool in the shade. 

The ranger came through to remind the trail visitors to leave the area by 1PM. Indeed, on the way out, the road was under flowing water in two places (see the photo at the top of this post). We carefully forded the streams, and continued on our way, happy to have seen and heard and experienced some beautiful flowing water. Back home, it was another record-breaking high temperature day (97 F.) with lots of beautiful storm clouds sliding by to drop their moisture somewhere else in the land of rabid foxes and bears.


Thank you, Beez, for taking the photos for this post, since I left my camera in the car.

Monday, August 26, 2013

What We Saw in Albuquerque

My sister and I spent a few days recently in Albuquerque. We don't know much about the city except for the medical parts that we visit, but we did have a little free time to drive around Nob Hill. It is a neighborhood of vintage bungalows, very charming. As we drove down this street, we noticed something different looming just past this little cottage, above. You can barely see it through the trees. 

Here's a little better view of the front and its metal sculptures. This is the Bart Prince House, which I learned about on the internet by simply googling "weird house Nob Hill Albuquerque." If  you click on the link, you will see some much clearer photos of the exterior, plus some tantalizing glimpses of the interior as well. 

I wish those sculptures had come out more clearly

Tile work

Once you drive around the corner, the house looks completely different, perched way up there. 

Not too far down the road, we stopped in at Masks y Mas, an art gallery and retail store which was mentioned in the August 2013 issue of New Mexico Magazine. It was colorful inside and out, and full of Day of the Dead art, masks, and all kinds of accessories. I encourage you to check out their website to get the flavor of the place.

I got this snazzy bracelet for my sister and she is having fun creating outfits to go with it. 

 Adios, Albuquerque. We'll be back..

Sunset from the hotel