Monday, August 23, 2010

Who knew bears liked tamales?

A couple of weeks ago found me heading for a family event in Santa Fe. I always enjoy this trip because we pass through some of the most pleasant country in the West – southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. Depending on the weather we either head straight south over Pass Creek Pass then down through San Luis and Taos or west and then south through the San Luis Valley, Antonito, and Ojo Caliente. Either route has its benefits but if we find ourselves in Antonito, Colorado we always stop at the Tamale Connection. It’s actually a little restaurant tucked in the back of a gas station but they have the best tamales. We usually pickup a dozen or two from the cook at the restaurant and take them home for the freezer. There is nothing better on a cold night than a plate of tamales and a good stout brew.

No matter how often we head south, I always find something new to appreciate. This part of the West is so unique because of the Hispanic culture and the history that comes with it. As the residents easily move back and forth across the border, I often wonder if the area should be its own U.S. state. Southern Colorado really has nothing in common with the northern part of the state and I suspect it is the same for New Mexico.

One of the cultural aspects I find so interesting is the Hispanic land use pattern which is hundreds of years old and based on Roman and Middle Eastern concepts. Land was divided into commons, to be used by all the people, and smaller suertes that were under individual ownership. The commons gave the residents a large area for grazing and firewood collection and protected the watershed of the suertes. Each suertes was generally an elongated piece of land that would include river bottom land, pasture, and an irrigated area for crops. This land use design was based on the needs of the community and is so different than our Anglo land use which cares little for the common good. If you are interested in reading more about the Hispanic land use culture, I highly recommend Ancient Agriculture by Juan Estevan Arellano, a 5th generation farmer from northern New Mexico. The book is actually the first ever English translation of a traditional farming technique manual originally published in 1513!

You are probably wondering what happened to the tamales. In preparation for this season’s beef, we have been eating our way through the last of the food in the freezer. Somehow a package of tamales had escaped earlier detection so we finished those off and I put the corn husks in the compost pile. The next morning I noticed that the deer fence around the back yard was flattened and there were piles of bear scat around the compost. The corn husks were no where to be seen. We repaired the fence, cleaned up the bear piles and figured all was well. Next morning was a repeat of the previous one so this time, in addition to a fence repair, we also added an electric wire on the outside at about bear nose height. The tamale munching bruin has not been back. I am generally very careful about having anything that resembles food and might attract a bear anywhere where one could find it. But who knew bears liked tamales?

From Fleur Creek Farm


  1. Did Larry tell you his cat chased the bear away from his place?

    The NC wildlife report is that there were 4 bucks for 28 points in my back yard (2 8s, 2 6s, if I'm counting right) the other night--all buddies for now. I only ever saw a few deer the whole time I lived in Colorado, but now they turn up in gangs in the evening and eat my tomato vines, two miles from downtown.


  2. Back East they count the buck's points on both sides. Out West we only count one side; no need to inflate things out here. Three and four point bucks are nice sized ones, though.