The featured picture above is a “shepherd’s bed”. Historically, such a thing would have been situated over a cooking area. If the dear reader looks closely at the image, an oven carved out of the adobe can be seen in the corner. The bed served to control smoke and would be a warm place to sleep. Usually the arthritic old folks, someone sick, or the babies would sleep there because of its cuddly warmth. The caveman and the gringa got to see this interesting contraption when we visited El Rancho de los Golondrinas, or, The Ranch of the Swallows. The Ranch is a living history museum with original buildings and much of the furnishings dating back to the eighteenth century. It is located on two hundred acres within a rural farming valley just south of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
As the original family and families of their ranch hands flourished and prospered, the original barn was eventually converted into a chapel and a larger barn constructed. The family chapel still stands and visitors can see a beautiful, intricately carved altar and many handmade icons of the patron saint of farmers, Isidoro.
The Ranch was practically self-sufficient and had its own blacksmith shop. To view it, visitors enjoy a stroll down a shady lane that passes a marsh. The marsh is dotted with colorful flowers and filled with birds that populate the thick grove of trees around this precious natural water feature.
Most of the buildings are original and date back as far as the early 1700s. Some buildings have been reconstructed but are still historically accurate and blend in so well visitors can’t tell one from another. One of these buildings is a general store where visitors can enjoy an eighteenth century shopping experience. The gringa recommends the sarsaparilla which will be served up to you by a volunteer dressed in period clothing posing as a local villager.
Throughout the year the ranch hosts a number of events and shows that realistically depict life on the frontier in early New Mexico. There are festivals, music, dance, rodeos and many other aspects of life re-enacted to share with guests the culture and influences of Spanish, Mexican and Territorial periods of the Southwest.
The gringa and the caveman came away from this experience enriched. We decided that although we enjoy our modern, technologically advanced lifestyle, we can appreciate the simplicity and beauty of life at a place like that ranch. Sure, it was full of hardship and extremely labor intensive, but what an incredible sense of community to live and work in a conclave like that. The only thing the gringa would really throw a fit about missing would be my very large and powerful hot water heater.