Enchanting Stories of New Mexico - Episode 40 - New Mexico's Rich Mining History

Welcome to the Fresh Chile Company Podcast - Enchanting Stories of New Mexico. Tune in to listen to all things New Mexico Chile, and other enchanting facts about New Mexico.
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Episode 40 - New Mexico's Rich Mining History

Michael Swickard here. Welcome to Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces. Our award-winning Hatch Green and Red Chile is from locally owned farms in Hatch, NM, The Chile Capital of the World.

If you are a Chile Farmer or a Chile aficionado, there is one day that we would rather not have anytime soon. The first freeze. When that happens, all Chile growing ends until next year. For Hatch, New Mexico, the Chile Capital of the World the average predicted freeze day is early November after 210 growing days without frost. Just so you know, frost is what Chile Plants cannot tolerate so the growing season starts when the freezing days end and ends when the freezing days begin. It is also good to know that all frost is not the same. No sir, there is Light freeze with temperatures from 32 degrees down to 29 degrees which kills very tender plants. Moderate freeze from 28 degrees down to 25 degrees is often the end of most planted vegetation and the Severe freeze 24 degrees and colder is the end of your garden most times. Now there is a 30 percent chance that the date of last freeze or first freeze is off a week or more, so it is not an exact science. There is also, not to make this too complicated, but there is also a duration component to temperature harm for plants. What do you mean Michael?

How long it stays cold in the fall is important. Just drops down for 15 minutes, might not harm some temperature sensitive plants. Example: the big Saguaro Catus you see in Arizona can live for a hundred years in that environment. Very occasionally the temperature drops for a few hours below freezing and the plant can tolerate it. A couple hours only. That is why you never see Saguaro Catus growing naturally in New Mexico. It helps some of these plants if they grow next to a brick or rock wall that catches the sun, so it has some leftover heat or thermal mass in the wall at night that changes the ambient temperature right at the plant.

Now in my life in Las Cruces, of which I have lived many years there was an extremely cold time in the early 1970s while I was going to college. Froze the gas pipeline and for those without electric heaters it burst lots of water pipes and in 2011 in a kind of freak cold snap in February that took temperatures below minus ten for a couple days. The power went off for many homes and businesses and the plumbers were busy with burst pipes just like back in about 1971 for that cold spell. More so, it killed many trees and plants. A friend had a garden business and said, that’s the year I regreted some of the trees I planted many times over the years like the Mexican Elder trees that were wonderful until the temperature fell. Most died. Since the power went off for days in some areas of Southern New Mexico it certainly did push another industry, the portable power machines that switch on or can be switched on when the regular power goes off. That business took off.

Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.

In the last week or so I have talked on these podcasts about gold mining in New Mexico. I was asked when the point was it became more than someone seeing something shiny and picking it up. Well now, in the Western now United States, the first commercial mining was north of Santa Fe in the Ortiz Mountains. The Spanish started working the mines there in 1821 to garner what is called, Placer gold. This is a different mining technique from hard rock in a shaft mining which get veins of gold from a solid rock area. Placer mining is taking little bits of gold in sand or sandstone and extracting it usually with water. You have seen the people panning for gold in a cold stream of water. That is the simplest of placer mining. The prospector pan takes a scoop of sand and gravel and swirls it with the heavier gold going to the bottom of the pan and everything else going over the side. Some people do so on the weekends as a sort of recreational relation. From what I saw it provides the chance of gold and the guarantee of cold hands and feet and a nagging pain in the small of your back.

The underground mining operation, the Ortiz Mine opened in 1822 using slave labor. Within a couple years veins of gold were discovered and the mining operation concentrated on them. So technically the very first lode gold mine in the west was the Ortiz which was a couple decades ahead of the California Gold Rush. But what you must know about the Ortiz mining operation was that there was not all that much lode gold that you could hold nuggets in your hand and lots of placer gold that took loads of work and technology to bring to market.

These mines in a general couple of mile locations were worked over the years but had the problem of low-grade ores that were not profitable unless the price of gold was up. Companies were started for a while and then quit. Following the first world war there were no investors interested and the operation closed. Part of the problem was a lack of easy-to-use water that did not have to be piped into the area. Fast forward to 1973 and an open pit mining operation started using a leach method to get the gold out. A quarter million ounces of gold were extracted and then the mine was closed in 1986. That was the real end of the gold mining in that lawsuits and technical problems saw that the mining never restarted.

Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.

Now I was talking about gold and have left out the effect of silver on New Mexico. In 1546 silver was recognized and therefore discovered near the present-day city of Zacatecas. The rush was on and silver, not gold, was the main product of Mexico for many years. The most came from Peru but Mexico and subsequently mines in New Mexico produced silver to send to Spain and Portugal.

What about New Mexico? Currently there are over 800 silver mine operations being worked as I am speaking. Silver isn’t as fancy or even as much per ounce but most of the gold operations have been mined out. Now it is gypsum and Clay/Shale/Brick/Crushed Rock.

Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.

Speaking of New Mexico history as I like to do, I was talking the other day about how New Mexico is a geographical attractor for people in other areas, especially those coming from back east. When New York Tribune editor Horace Greely wrote in 1841 his American dream statement. He saw going West, though he lived in New York, he saw going west as the land of opportunity for the young and the unemployed, he galvanized going west with the statement that was repeated more times than we can count. Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.

That brought a surge of new people out west and often to New Mexico. You should know this about New Mexico as a territory from 1850 to 1912. It was always a territorial government of outsiders to New Mexico. The Presidential appointed Governor, Attorney General, U. S. Marshal and Land Commissioner along with the Federal Judges that were all from somewhere else and many, not all, were just counting the days until they could leave New Mexico. The only local representation the people of New Mexico had in those 62 years as a territory was the territorial legislature. There was a flood of grafters and grifters and cheaters that came and went over the years. Why there is a story of Wyatt Earp before his big gunfight in Tombstone being caught trying to sell Gold bars that were actually lead painted with gold. Since I was talking about silver being mined instead of gold, Tombstone was entirely a silver operation.

The political effect on New Mexico of having this herd of people in and out of the leadership of New Mexico was a political machine commonly known as the Santa Fe Ring. Catron county is named for the head at times of the Santa Fe Ring, Thomas Benton Catron who made sure every dollar spent had a benefit to the politicians in Santa Fe who belonged to the ring. I will write more about him in the future. He was even a U. S. Senator.

Now it is nearly lunchtime for me. I really appreciate the generations of farmers in Hatch New Mexico that have enabled Chile with an e to be a household taste. While the Fresh Chile Company has lots of great tasting Chile, I want to remind people that these are great days to bring out the grill and do some grilling. What besides great things to grill do you need? Why there are seven bold and savory flavor rubs and seasonings to really pick up your grilling. Start with Steak and Crop rub. It really adds a lot. Then there is Sweet and Spicy rub. In all there are seven good seasonings and rubs at the Fresh Chile Company website. That site is FreshChileCo dot com. Run it all together freshchileco dot com. Yum.

One more thing that is great about The Fresh Chile Company. It has Freeze-Dried Hatch Green Chile in 3, 6, and 12 packs. What I like about the Freeze-Dried is that no refrigeration is needed. It is so convenient, especially for people hiking. I really like this product and it really takes flavor of dips, sauces and stews to the max.

One thing that happens when people live in Las Cruces or is in our slice of paradise. They can come by the Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop at 1160 El Paseo Rd, Suite D7A in Las Cruces, NM. It is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Come by the Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop. There is a big sign over the entrance saying The Fresh Chile Company.

This is Michael Swickard with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico brought to you by The Fresh Chile Company. Thank you for your time today. We will have lots of News and stories about New Mexico for you on these Podcasts, If you have something or someone you want me to talk about, write to: michael@freshchileco.com

Have a great rest of your day. Oh yes and eat plenty of that good Hatch Valley Chile. Like I always say, “Some Chile is good, more is better as long as it is Hatch Valley Chile.” Bye for now.

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