Bare Bones Biology 256 – Yesterdays are our Tomorrows

Tierra Wools Festival is held every year on the last Saturday in April. This year, I was able to attend, and it sent my mind back to all the best memories of my longest friend, Margie, who was always one step ahead in her interests and ethics. And my mother, who grew up with horse and buggy, and excelled in women’s skills and arts, and later when someone got around to inventing a portable camera, she excelled as a master photographer.


1504026-Wools-ASC_6581RLSRSs* copy 2La How they would have enjoyed Tierra Wools, and the sharing of it. Admiring the natural wools and dyes; feeling them. The rooms full of looms and rugs. The modern version of spinning wheel and pot-belly stove. All in a town the size of a postage stamp that has two major features: a classic New Mexico church, and air so clear you want to open wide your lungs to it, and then keep it inside forever.…-our-tomorrows/For you who are listening to the podcast, I recommend you go to the blog for the rest of the story. It’s in the pictures. Lot’s of pictures this week.


1504026-Wools-ASC_6567RLS**s copyMeantime, Tierra Wools is woven into the history of New Mexico. Listen to part of the story from Heather Taylor-Chavez:


“This is The Tierra Wools Spring Harvest Festival. This is our 23rd year. The business has been here for 32 years, it will be here in July. ”


LL – What was here 32 years ago?


“As far as I know, not much. There was the church, this building but this building was closed down. It was a mercantile.”


LL   Sheep.


1504026-Wools-ASC_6537RLSs copy“There were sheep, yes. There were a lot of sheep. The community needed something to do with all the fibers they had, all the wools and things, so a collective of about 45 people got together and tracked down a renowned weaver in Taos, and she came to teach them everything that we do now. Then it was a coop; now it’s on a consignment basis.   It’s an LLC, no longer a coop, but some time in the future we hope to be.“

Churro. How do you say Churro?


1504026-Wools-ASC_6521RLSs copy1504026-Wools-ASC_6608RLSs“Churro. It’s a specialty breed of sheep. It was almost extinct at one time. The Churro originally came from Spain. The Spaniards brought it over in their ships when they first started to voyage to the Americas because it was a hardy breed, so it could last the journey across the ocean, and they had fresh meat for their travel. When they got here, the Spaniards were done with them, so they just kind of let them go and let them roam. And they roamed up to the desert area where the Navajos were, and the Navajos kind of adopted them. That’s why they are also called the Navajo Churro.

“The reason why the Navajo loved them so much is because they don’t have as much grease in their wool as other sheep, so you can shear them, comb it, spin it an weave with it, and then wash it later.   That was very important to the Navajo because of their lack of water, living in the desert.


“After the civil war was over, the soldiers went on to the great West to round up the Indians and put them on reservations, the soldiers were done with mutton, because all throughout the civil war they had a lot of mutton, because that was what was on hand.   And when they got here, and they rounded up the Navajo to put them on the reservation, they didn’t want the sheep. They said, we can’t use their wool because it’s a coarse inferior wool, and inferior breed, so just kill them off, and they almost did. And they almost did. The Churro were almost in extinction for close to – at least a hundred years.”

LL – I remember when they were starting to bring them back. At that time I thought they were a fine wool sheep.


“They’re very coarse. It’s very coarse wool, but for our use it’s very wonderful because of the long staple and the coarseness also contributes to the strength of the wool, so for weaving a rug, it’s probably the best fiber you can use, because of the traffic on the rug. It’s very warm, but it’s very itchy. If you are allergic to it, it’s not good.”


For you who are reading this blog, I recommend that you listen to Heather tell the story. It’s better than reading. Go to:



This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS radio, 89.1 FM in Bryan, TX.


© 2015, Photos by Lynn