– FAQs

Questions asked over the years about services, regulations, natural problems and the area in general.


Q: I just moved in and I need to know what to do with my trash?

Q: I have some tree trimmings and yard debris. What are the rules for burning them?

Q: I have seen many cars traveling fast up and down Tano Road and Camino de los Montoyas. Is there a speed limit?

Q: We are new to living in this part of the country and have never lived in an adobe-style stucco home. Are there typical maintenance items that need to be done each year?

Q: We have lived in New Mexico for years but we recently moved to the Tano Road Area. It seems somewhat remote yet close to town. Do I need to be concerned with theft or burglaries?

Q: We just moved in and noticed our property is covered with small mounds of fresh dirt. What is this?

Q: I have never lived where I had well water for my house. The water pressure seems low to me compared to other places we have lived and I feel some grit in the water. What’s happening?

Q: We have just moved into our Tano Road home and I notice that some of the trees have brown areas. I believe they are evergreens and I don’t want them to die. What should I do?

Q: I have noticed a foul odor around the shower drain in our guest bedroom. What is happening?

Q: I noticed that my garage floor has some old and new oil stains from our cars. I had the leaks on the car repaired and I put a protective pad on the floor just in case of a new leak, but how do I remove the old oil stains in the concrete?

Q: I have noticed many of my pinons have a goopy sap-like substance oozing out of several places on the tree. When I touch the sap it is soft and very sticky. Is this normal?

Q: We are not familiar with the “high desert” weather climate, having just moved from Chicago. Our gardener recommends we mulch all our plantings. I know about mulch but why is this so important here?

Q: We lived in Florida for years before moving to Santa Fe and we are used to hot, humid weather and 24/7 air conditioning. Our home here only has ceiling fans and we have our windows open nearly all time and as a result the window screens seem to get dirty. Is there a good way to clean the window screens?

Q: We are basically “city” people having moved to Santa Fe from Washington, D.C. When we bought our home in the Tano Road area last year, it seemed somewhat remote but close to town. We love the quiet and night breezes but yesterday afternoon I was shocked to see a 6 foot rattlesnake moving slowly across our gravel driveway! I had no idea I would have to deal with poisonous snakes in our new home!

 

Q: I recently read in the New Mexican that a local resident had died of the hantavirus and my next door neighbor also told me to beware of the plague. Are these real concerns?

 

Q: We have several small fireplaces in our Tano Road home and at times when we have fires going we get smoke backing up and coming out into the room. The wood seems to be burning just fine and the fire seems strong and hot. Is it because the fireplace is small that we are getting this smoke backup?

Q: I have been doing some clean up on our property, trimming out dead wood and pruning to shape up my pinyons. When I was finished for the day I noticed that I had sticky sap from the pinyons on my work clothes. I tried to remove it with soap and water but it was still there and finally used mineral spirits which worked but discolored my clothes a bit. Is there some trick to removing pinyon sap from clothes?

Q: We have been city-dwellers until moving to Santa Fe and our home on Tano Road is really out in the country to us. I know that we have a septic system but I am not sure what that means. Are there special maintenance requirements that we should be aware of?

Q: We have only lived in our Tano Road home for a month and when we awakened this morning we had no water coming out of the faucets. I saw a recommendation on the TRA Blog for well repair service from Thompson Water Wells but since it is the weekend they can not come to our property until Monday. What do we do for water in the meantime?

Q: We just moved to the Tano Road area from a big city. We are new to rural living and want to know about drilling, sharing and maintaining a well.

Q: My gardener keeps suggesting I install a drip irrigation system for my annuals and perennials and specimen trees. I have no idea what this involves. Is this a good idea?


Q: I just moved in and I need to know what to do with my trash?

A: There are two means of disposal of household trash: pickup service or taking your trash to a dump site.

  • Some residents have switched from Waste Management Systems (see next bullet point) to MCT because they provide the same pickup service for less than half the cost.  However, they do not currently provide recyclable pickup service.  Call 800-876-8651 for more information.  Pickup day in our area is Monday.
  • Many residents use Waste Management Systems which provides, free of charge, a 95 gallon trash receptacle which holds household trash and is picked up weekly by Waste Management for a monthly fee. They also offer a recycle program for an additional fee. To inquire on the entire range of services and fees, contact Waste Management at 505-473-0982.  Pickup day in our area is Thursday.
  • Take household trash to the Buckman Transfer Station just down the road, south on NM599 off of the La Tierra exit. There is a fee per trip or, annually, county residents can obtain a limited number of trash tickets from the County Waste Disposal office to be used throughout the year.
  • Take trash to the Tesuque Transfer Station. See http://www.santafecounty.org/utilities/solidwaste/solidwaste_convenience_centers for hours and map.

 

Q: I have some tree trimmings and yard debris. What are the rules for burning them?

A: The rule is you may not! We live in the arid high desert. Rainfall for our area averages 10″ for the entire year. Most times of the year we are in a drought state, with low humidity and high winds. Abundant pinyons and juniper trees are evergreen foliage which will burn fast and hot. As a result, unlike other parts of the country where you may have lived before, outside burning of anything is not permitted, except a charcoal grill. Even the charcoal grill requires proper use and watchful tending. For a complete understanding of the fire prevention and fire safety concerns for our high desert area see our TRA Firewise Booklet about preventing wildfires and preparing for evacuation (PDF 582kb).

Q: I have seen many cars traveling fast up and down Tano Road and Camino de los Montoyas. Is there a speed limit?

A: Yes there is. The speed limit is posted at 35 mph and there are several signs along Tano Road noting the limit. There are many travelers other than residents which use our roads; construction workers, maids, landscapers, repair service vehicles and visitors. We have more and more young families living in the Tano Road area and children at play poses a particular risk. We try to reinforce safe driving and remind all who drive to slow down and respect all traffic signs.

Q: We are new to living in this part of the country and have never lived in an adobe-style stucco home. Are there typical maintenance items that need to be done each year?

A: Without a doubt. Because our temperature can reach lows of 0 F and highs in the upper 90’s, materials expand and contract routinely. First, a home inspection service may be of help to identify specific items of maintenance for your home and some can even suggest service companies to do the maintenance. There are many such inspection services listed in the phone book but you might check the Blog pages to see if other TRA residents have a particular company to recommend.

If you have a flat roof, roof maintenance is essential. An annual inspection of your roof will note areas of needed repair or maintenance, so that the surface is sealed and water tight.

Stucco can form cracks, some of which may lead to moisture entering the wall space. As a result, mold can form and become a difficult condition to stop and remove. Keeping the stucco exterior sealed with appropriate caulk, sealant and even re-stucco will go a long ways toward insuring a dry wall space.

Exterior window surfaces should be inspected each year to insure there is a water tight bond between the window frame and sash and the stucco.

Fireplaces needed to be swept each year and flues, chimney caps and spark arrestors examined. This is normally done by a professional chimney sweep in September or October of each year. Because the wood often burned in our fireplaces is pinyon, which burns hot and fast, fireplace defects can result in dangerous chimney fires and spread to the entire home.

Other routine annual maintenance items might include water softening systems, radiant heat/boiler systems, automated garage door openers, security alarm/smoke detector/CO-2 detector/fire detector systems, irrigation systems, automated gate opening systems, propane storage and delivery systems and private domestic well water systems.

 

 

Q: We have lived in New Mexico for years but we recently moved to the Tano Road Area. It seems somewhat remote yet close to town. Do I need to be concerned with theft or burglaries?

 

A: No matter where you live, vigilance about your personal safety and the security of your property is important. The Tano Road area, according to the Santa Fe County’s Sheriff’s Department, has the lowest neighborhood crime rates in the county. The Sheriff credits our Tano Road Security Patrol, an all volunteer neighborhood crime watch program, whose volunteers are all members of the neighborhood Tano Road Association. See Security Patrol.

On the rare occasion when an incident occurs, in addition to reporting the situation to the Sheriff’s Department, reporting it to Tano Road Association Communications [info@tanoroad.org] results in an email broadcast to Tano Road area residents to be aware and on the lookout.

Most property owners have installed home security alarm systems with central monitoring service. Some have fenced and electronically gated the entrance to their property as well.

Many keep neighbors aware of out of town travel and often leave itineraries with neighbors along with house keys and alarms codes to allow access if necessary. Newspaper deliveries are stopped while out of town and neighbors retrieve mail daily to hold upon return.

While there is no one “magic” formula for protection against theft or burglaries, all of these measures taken collectively can provide an effective deterrence.

Q: We just moved in and noticed our property is covered with small mounds of fresh dirt. What is this?


A:
Most likely, you have an infestation of pocket gophers. Moles are rare in our area. They are an on going nuisance. Most hardware stores or home centers have various solutions from poisonous foods, poisonous gas, mechanical traps, non-toxic liquid ground sprays and sound generating deterrents.

 

Generally, when a fresh sign of tunneling activity is noticed, immediate and aggressive action should be taken. Everyone has their own preference to rid the creatures from their property. Search the Blog pages for recommendations or solutions.

Many have hired a professional service to come and treat the condition with follow up visits scheduled weekly until the situation is resolved. Generally these services use a highly toxic poison buried in the tunnel hole and covered over with a buried stone and dirt. Access to the treated areas by pets and children would be a consideration which should be carefully reviewed with the service.

 

Q: I have never lived where I had well water for my house. The water pressure seems low to me compared to other places we have lived and I feel some grit in the water. What’s happening?

 

A: Most of the Tano Road area is on residential well water. Some have individual wells, some have shared wells with another nearby household while others may be “group wells” which are larger capacity wells which may supply as many a five households.

Low water pressure may be a result of several conditions: an underpowered or failing well pump; failing pressure tanks; improper water pressure setting on the pressure tanks or a leak in the water line supplying the house.

Any of these conditions requires a professional water well specialist. Go to the Blog to see if other TRA residents have recommended a water well specialist. The Yellow Pages also list local water well specialists. An evaluation of your specific condition will generally require a service call for a fee and result in an evaluation of your condition and an estimate of cost to correct.

The range of costs can vary greatly depending on the cause of the condition. For example, to replace the well pump and control box with the maximum rated pump of 5 HP would cost about $4,000. The price will vary because it depends on how deep the well pump is set down in the well. A well pump set at 700 feet will cost more to pull and replace than a well pump set at 500 feet. Generally a well pump replacement will take a full day. Typical life of a high quality well pump is about 8-10 years.

Sometimes lightning will strike the control box and while the control box protected the pump from failure, the box will have to be replaced. Typical cost for the control box alone is about $600 and takes only a couple of hours of service time.

Pressure tanks sometimes fail because the internal bladder develops a leak. Replacing the bladder is required and often the water pressure relief solenoid which sets the water pressure for the house. Costs vary widely due to the access to the pressure tanks and service time required to replace the bladder. If you have two pressure tanks [usually two 40 gallon WellBilt tanks], the cost will vary depending on whether only one bladder or both need to be replaced. Some recommend replacing both bladders at the same time, even if only one is defective, as an efficiency of labor costs can be realized.

Other smaller items are less costly or time consuming, like replacing only the water pressure relief solenoid.

If it is suspected that there is a leak in the water line supplying your house, the cost to find and then repair the leak can be costly. There are many electronic devices and systems which can be used to actually find the location of the leak. As a result it may be worthwhile to get multiple bids and approaches.

Finally, water quality is a separate issue. For most of the Tano Road area our water is hard with deposits of iron & calcium relatively high. Silica is also present and may be what you feel as gritty in your water. If these mineral deposits remain in the water, the water may be safe to drink but will eventually damage or stain faucets, sinks, tubs and showers.

Usually it is prudent to have a comprehensive water quality test done to determine exactly what mineral deposits are in your specific well water. The test will also look for bacterial contaminants and radioactive pollutants. There are several water quality service companies in Santa Fe which can perform these tests and advise appropriate remedies. Go to the Blogs to see if other TRA residents recommend a specific company for water quality service. Many home owners install a water treatment system, like the Hague WaterMax system, which removes these mineral deposits and softens the water for the entire house. While such systems can be expensive, they will protect the condition and appearance of faucets and sinks.

Remember, water pressure and water quality are two entirely different conditions. Your well pump and water delivery system may be operating perfectly but your water quality can be poor.

 

Q: We have just moved into our Tano Road home and I notice that some of the trees have brown areas. I believe they are evergreens and I don’t want them to die. What should I do?

A: First, an inspection by a trained arborist is a good place to start. There are many tree care companies in Santa Fe which are noted in the Yellow Pages of the phone book but also check the Blogs for recommendations from other TRA residents.

We have two principal evergreen trees in our area, juniper and pinyon. In general, juniper is very hardy and resistant to diseases and insect infestations. Many consider juniper a “junk” tree, not worth protecting or cultivating, however, well groomed junipers can be an attractive and interesting landscape addition and can grow to a significant size. They are drought tolerant and once established require little water.

Pinyon on the other hand is susceptible to insect infestations, primarily tip beetle, bark beetle and pitch moth. See the TRA Bark Beetle Guidelines and Blogs for specific guidelines to protect and treat pinyons with beetle infestations. Large, mature pinyons may be over 100 years old and add to property values. They are worthwhile to protect and cultivate and with proper pruning can become an architectural landscape feature. To try to replace a mature pinyon can cost thousands of dollars and mature transplants have a high risk of failure, so protecting your native pinyons is a worthwhile effort.

What you may be seeing is a normal part of the pinyon life cycle. As deciduous trees shed their leaves in the fall, pinyons shed their oldest needles [a process called needle cast] in the spring in order to make way for new needle growth at the tip. Often, seasonal needle cast is mistaken for a sick pinyon, however, a trained arborist can make the distinction.

Another nuisance is mistletoe. You may have known of mistletoe from your previous home and find it charming. However, it is parasite which burrows its roots into the phloem of both pinyons and junipers and lives off of the nutrients of the tree. Over time mistletoe can become so invasive that it will kill the tree. Further, if left growing on the tree it will produce a flower berry which will explode, sending thousands of spores into the air which can travel up to a hundred feet in search of a new host. One small infestation of mistletoe can infect not only your own healthy trees but those of your neighbors as well. Go to the Blogs for specific guidelines for treating trees hosting mistletoe.

Trees in general, and pinyons in particular, can be under “stress” which challenges the overall health of the tree. Left unattended, stress will certainly kill a pinyon. Stress factors include construction traffic activity and equipment near a tree, too little water, highly compacted root-zone, storm or snow damage to limbs, toxic chemicals or construction waster buried nearby, etc. Heavy, deep, weekly watering within a tree well which extends to the drip line of the tree can often be enough to overcome many stress factors. But other factors will require an arborist to specifically prescribe a treatment regime for ground toxicity, compacted root zone or proper pruning out of damaged limbs. If a tree looks sick or under stress, don’t delay; call a professional to assess your situation.

 

Q: I have noticed a foul odor around the shower drain in our guest bedroom. What is happening?

 

A: Probably what you are smelling is “sewer gas” which originates from your septic system. While the gas is a normal condition, that is, a by-product of the bacterial break down of waste before the waste is sent to the drain field, it is unpleasant.

By building code, all waste water drains must have “P-Traps” installed in the line, usually above ground just after the drain itself. If you look underneath the countertop of one of your sinks you will see an “U” shaped configuration of piping just below the drain to the sink. This is the P-Trap. When water exits the drain there will always remain an amount of water in the “U” of this P-Trap which serves as an air-lock. The air-lock prevents any air from the lower sewer drain to come back up into the room.

If you are smelling sewer gas, the air-lock has been lost. This usually applies to little used drains where the water creating the air-lock has evaporated since no water has come out of the faucet recently. To restore the air-lock, simply run water out of the faucet down the drain for several seconds to restore the water in the P-Trap.

If the condition continues after running fresh water through the drain, you may have a crack or leak in the P-Trap which is causing the water to run out and breaking the air-lock. You will need to call a plumber to fix this.

Q: I noticed that my garage floor has some old and new oil stains from our cars. I had the leaks on the car repaired and I put a protective pad on the floor just in case of a new leak, but how do I remove the old oil stains in the concrete?

 

A: The oil, or in some cases power steering fluid or brake fluid, actually is absorbed into the concrete. Concrete, unless sealed, is quite porous and over time will actually push the stain further down into the concrete floor. As a result it is important to try to remove the stain as quickly as possible.

There are many products on the market which claim to remove these oil stains. Most all attempt to break down the oil chemical structure and then pull out the residue using a binding agent.

Sometimes it helpful to first treat the stain with an industrial strength delamaline cleaner, [DEP makes one as well as BIN-Z found at Home Depot or Lowes]. It will absorb into the concrete and break down the oily substance making it easier to remove the residue.

A home remedy which works quite well is to mix 1 part tri-sodium phosphate with 1 part baby talcum powder, add a small amount of water until it forms a thick paste, almost like oatmeal. Spread this paste over the stained concrete area and let dry thoroughly, usually overnight. Using a flat edged scrapper, remove the paste residue and wash down with soapy water. Older stains may take repeated applications.

For brand new concrete garage floors, sealing them before any use is a wise investment. A high quality, clear industrial penetrating sealer is the best bet. There are many products on the market but this is an area where you get what you pay for. A higher absorption rate means deeper penetration of the concrete slab which means longer lasting protection which generally will make the sealer more expensive.

Q: I have noticed many of my pinyons have a goopy sap-like substance oozing out of several places on the tree. When I touch the sap it is soft and very sticky. Is this normal?

 

A: What you are seeing is the result of an infestation of pitch moth. The moth looks for open wounds or recent pruning cuts to burrow into the phloem of the tree where it lays its eggs. It is a seasonal infestation, usually in the spring to early summer. The eggs will incubate, hatch and feed on the nutrients of the tree until the larve are mature. Upon maturity, the young pitch moths will exit the tree and begin the life cycle over again. The sap forming outside the infestation is a natural response of the tree to try to heal the wound. Over time the sap will harden to a more permanent seal over the site of the infestation.

Generally, pitch moth will rarely kill a tree, unless of course the infestation is wide spread and the tree is under stress. To physically remove the pitch moth eggs is nearly impossible and may damage the tree more than the benefit from removal.

Systemic treatment using an insecticide, like Bayer, will kill the infestation by the absorption of the insecticide through the roots into the sap of the pinyon where the larvae are feeding. It is an expensive but effective remedy. Most just let the pitch moth lifecycle complete and let the tree heal over the infestation site.

The important point is that when pruning or treating other tree damage, like from snow damage, to use a pruning paint to cover over the wound or pruning scare. The tar-like pruning paint will generally prevent pitch moths from burrowing into the wound area. See Battle of Tree Pests Infestation and our bark beetle booklet

 

Q: We are not familiar with the “high desert” weather climate, having just moved from Chicago. Our gardener recommends we mulch all our plantings. I know about mulch but why is this so important here?

 

A: The high desert climate is an interesting and beautiful mix of weather patterns. Water is scarce like a desert. We generally receive about 10″-12″ of precipitation a year, some of which is in the form of snow and most of the rest comes during an 8 week period in the summer, called the Monsoon. That is not much precipitation. The Monsoon begins about June 15 and continues to mid-August. In fact it is not like a traditional monsoon but simply refers to moisture that is brought up by the Jet Stream from the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Baja regions to the south.

Santa Fe has four full seasons. Temperatures have a wide range. Zero to sub-zero lows in the winter and highs of 95 degrees in August and September, with generally low humidity, are the norm. Spring winds can reach tropical storm levels and have a severe drying effect on trees and plants. Thunderstorms with hail and snowstorms with near blizzard conditions are common. In short the weather is magical but harsh at times.

The net effect on trees and plantings can be complicated. Trying to maintain a balance is the key to moderating severe swings in moisture and temperature. Mulch can greatly help to reduce the effect of the very low temperatures and moisture against the heat of summer and wet periods of monsoon.

There are different types of mulch. Rock and small gravel as mulch are very effective around some types of plants, like lavender, spirea, Russian Sage, butterfly bushes, rosemary and other types of perennials. Generally, gravel mulch allows moisture to flow through the gravel to the ground underneath to the roots, provides radiant heat to warm the roots in winter and restricts weeds.

Shredded cedar, pine needles, pecan hulls or composted cotton burrs are mulches which are effective around non-native trees. This type of mulch retains moisture in the mulch itself and slowly provides moisture to the ground underneath. It also moderates temperatures to keep the roots cool in summer.

Some plants and trees do not like “wet feet” or wet roots and in severe winters the wet feet will actually freeze and the plant will experience “winter-kill” from a dead root system. Gravel mulch in this instance will protect against winter-kill while moisture holding mulch will cause winter-kill.

All mulches, to be effective, need to be applied to a sufficient depth, usually at least 4″ and up to 8″ deep. Moisture holding mulches should be kept about 8″ away from the base of the plant or tree trunk.

To know which type of mulch is best for your specific situation, ask a trained, certified Master Gardener or seek advice from one of our local nurseries.

 

Q: We lived in Florida for years before moving to Santa Fe and we are used to hot, humid weather and 24/7 air conditioning. Our home here only has ceiling fans and we have our windows open nearly all time and as a result the window screens seem to get dirty. Is there a good way to clean the window screens?

A: Most window screens are made of a nylon or polyester material. Some of the older screens may be metal, although that would be the exception.

An easy, effective and safe way to clean your window screens is to remove them from the frame and using a Sharpie permanent pen, write on the narrow end of the screen frame which window the screen came from. Take them to the garage. Sweep out and wash down the garage floor area and then lay a couple of the screens flat on the smooth garage floor, with the outside screen material facing up.
Pour two tablespoons of dishwashing liquid soap, like Dawn, and 8 oz. of white vinegar into a utility bucket with 2 gallons of water. Using an ultra soft, nylon car wash brush mounted on a extendable pole, dip the brush into the soap solution and liberally wet down the flat screens on the garage floor Once wet, gently brush the screen mesh back and forth several times with the car brush.

When soaped down, gather the screens and lean them up against a vertical surface, like an exterior wall or outside garage door and wash the soap off with hose water. This should free the screen of accumulated dirt and debris.

Q: We are basically “city” people having moved to Santa Fe from Washington, D.C. When we bought our home in the Tano Road area last year, it seemed somewhat remote but close to town. We love the quiet and night breezes but yesterday afternoon I was shocked to see a 6 foot rattlesnake moving slowly across our gravel driveway! I had no idea I would have to deal with poisonous snakes in our new home!

 

A: We do live in the high desert and part of the magic and majesty of our climate is the wonderful wildlife. You will probably hear coyotes howling in the early evening and early morning. Many of our neighbors have seen [and some have photographed] the beautiful bobcats as they explore their territory and long-eared Jack rabbits, or Jackalopes, are commonly seen bounding across roads. Snakes do habitat our area as well.

What you have most likely seen is the common bull snake not a rattlesnake. The bull snake is about the same size with similar markings as the rattlesnake, but the bull snake has no rattler and while it does have fangs, it is not poisonous. When a bull snake is threatened it will take on the behavior of a rattlesnake in self defense, coiling up, shaking the tip of its tail and making a hissing noise to sound like a rattler. However a bull snake rarely attacks and even more rarely bites. If you do happen to be bitten by a bull snake you will need to have the wound treated and get a booster tetanus shot as well.

It is also wise to not allow dogs or cats to threaten a bull snake since a snake bite wound will require a trip to the Vet to prevent infection.

Most people find the bull snake mother nature’s best rodent trap. They keep the mice and pocket gopher populations down and are really not harmful otherwise. As a general rule, we never kill a bull snake. If we don’t like where a bull snake has parked itself, they are easily encouraged to move on, most effectively using a water spray nozzle on a garden hose.

 

Q: I recently read in the New Mexican that a local resident had died of the hantavirus and my next door neighbor also told me to beware of the plague. Are these real concerns?

 

A: While infection from hantavirus is very rare in Santa Fe County, there have been instances of confirmed hantavirus. The virus resides in the fecal and urinary residues of Deer Mice, although other rodents have been known to carry the virus as well.

The virus is light sensitive, meaning that it breaks down when exposed to ultra violet sun rays, so one would think that in our sunny, high desert climate the presence of hantavirus would be nonexistent. The problem, however, is that most rodents are nesting or residing in dark, musty areas with little ventilation.

Most often cases which are reported anywhere in New Mexico involve human activity in these dark, musty areas without ventilation. Individuals will have been cleaning out crawl spaces underneath a house or mobile home or opening up a cabin or vacation home closed up for the winter with rodent infestation or cleaning out rodent infestations in woodpiles or storage areas.

Since it is a respiratory illness, inhaling the dusty air can transmit the virus. As a result it is recommended that all individuals who even suspect a potential exposure wear a certified “air-born particulate” mask which covers the nose and mouth and filters the air against hantavirus and plague. It may seem extreme or overreacting in using such a mask, but the alternative is not acceptable and often life-threatening. The mask will state the level of protection and if in doubt ask if the mask is effective against hantavirus. See Wikipedia for info.

Plague on the other hand is spread by fleas on rabbits and rodents. Household pets, particularly dogs, may pick up the flea. Illness symptoms often mimic the flu. If you have had unprotected exposure to conditions which might harbor either the hantavirus or the plague and develop flu-like symptoms, immediate medical attention should be sought. There is treatment available but early detection and treatment are key.

See New Mexico Department of Health for complete details.

Q: We have several small fireplaces in our Tano Road home and at times when we have fires going we get smoke backing up and coming out into the room. The wood seems to be burning just fine and the fire seems strong and hot. Is it because the fireplace is small that we are getting this smoke backup?

 

A: Your fireplaces are called Kivas which are typical of the pueblo style of cooking hearths found in many native American villages for many centuries. They are small and do not take up much space and can provide warmth during winter and so many pueblo style, northern New Mexico homes will have several Kivas throughout the house.

Properly constructed Kiva fireplaces will have a strong, convection air-draw up the flue which insures smoke is pulled effectively from the firebox. Getting smoke backup into the room is not normal nor is it a safe condition. The cause for smoke backup can be elusive and complicated. Some professional chimney sweeps are very effective at determining the cause and even correcting the condition of smoke backup. Several are listed in the Yellow Pages of the Santa Fe phone book and also be sure to check the Blog pages for recommendations for chimney sweeps from other TRA residents.

First, using a strong flash light, just make a visual inspection of the flue to insure that it is clear and free of any nests or spider web build ups or any other obstructions.

Many have found that installing a “Roman chimney cap” can correct smoke buildup. The stainless steel cap is in the shape of a Roman guard helmet and rotates freely in the direction of the wind. The design of the cap helps to create additional upward draft from the flue and can pull smoke up and out of the flue in a downwind direction. It also contains a spark arrestor which is essential in our dry arid climate. A professional chimney sweep can determine the correct size needed for your flue, order and install the cap.

In some instances, negative air pressure in the room can prevent a proper upward draw in the flue. The room being so “air tight” that there is insufficient air source supply to create the draft. That is why when a window in the room is opened just slightly the smoke backup will stop. In this instance a supplemental air supply source may be necessary, usually by boring a small 3″-4″ hole at the base of the Kiva through to the outside of the exterior wall. An adjustable air vent is then installed over the hole in the Kiva to regulate the amount of outside air being drawn into the firebox. Some professional chimney sweeps may be able to install this vent or can recommend a contractor to do it.

Other factors contributing to smoke backup can be incorrectly constructed flues or fireboxes or incorrect chimney heights. Unfortunately, some problem Kivas may be a combination of several factors so patience and a systematic approach to solving the problem will be necessary.

 

Q: I have been doing some clean up on our property, trimming out dead wood and pruning to shape up my pinyons. When I was finished for the day I noticed that I had sticky sap from the pinyons on my work clothes. I tried to remove it with soap and water but it was still there and finally used mineral spirits which worked but discolored my clothes a bit. Is there some trick to removing pinyon sap from clothes?

 

A: It is not a trick but it is the correct solvent. Use a concentrated delamaline solvent, like DeSolv-It or DEP Concentrated Delamaline. [from Home Depot, Lowes or Big Joes Hardware] Delamalines are citrus based solvents which in proper concentration can remove a wide range of glues and adhesives. Saturate the sap with the delamaline and work it into the cloth and then wash the clothes as normal with detergent. These solvents also are very effective to remove sap from the skin and hair, and as they are a natural, biodegradable product, they are safe to use, washing away with soap and water. Often after a busy day of gardening I will wash my hands with pure delamaline first working it into my fingers, fingernails and cuticles and then wash my hands with regular hand soap. The results are amazing!

Q: We have been city-dwellers until moving to Santa Fe and our home on Tano Road is really out in the country to us. I know that we have a septic system but I am not sure what that means. Are there special maintenance requirements that we should be aware of?

 

A: Yes, septic systems require specific and recurring maintenance as well as special considerations for use.
Most all of the homes in the Tano Road area have septic waste disposal systems as opposed to sewers which residents in the city of Santa Fe would use.

First, you should determine the size of your septic holding tank. Most homes in our area have 1,000 gallon tanks, although some of the older homes may have 750 gallon tanks while many of the newer homes have 1500 gallon tanks. The tank size matters because it determines the maintenance program. If you don’t know the tank size you can refer to the septic system permit issued from the New Mexico Environment Department which should be part of your closing documents at the time of purchase of your home. If you can not locate it, you will need to contact the Environment Department for the State of New Mexico office here in Santa Fe. With the legal description of your property they can locate your permit and make a copy for your home files. In any event, you will need this document should you sell your home.

Every month you should add an amount of dry granular bacteria [like Rid-X] to your septic tank via one of the drains in your home [like a toilet, kitchen sink, utility sink, lavatory sink, etc.] Chose a different drain location each month. The amount of the granular bacteria is determined by the size of your tank. Adding the bacteria to your tank each month insures that waste breakdown in the tank remains at the optimum level. The bacteria are harmless to humans but liquefy paper tissue, human waste and garbage disposer waste so that it is in proper form to be carried out to the drain field of your septic system.

Normally, a septic tank is pumped dry about once every two years. It is not expensive [about $185] and is one of the best preventive maintenance efforts you can do for your system. The service company will also repopulate your empty tank with new bacteria. There are many septic service companies in Santa Fe listed in the Yellow Pages of the phone book, or check Septic Yellow Pages. . Also check the Blogs for recommendations for septic service companies from other TRA residents.

If the macrobiotic process is halted or diminished due to a lack of bacteria in your tank, the residue in the tank will eventually solidify, becoming almost rock-hard. This will stop the normal flow out to the drain field and will result in the tank overflowing at the lid or produce a back up into the drains in the house. To correct this problem will require a septic service company to break up the waste and pump the tank dry and re-populate your tank with new bacteria.

One extra note of caution: if your home has a waste disposer in the kitchen which you use regularly, the organic food waste is actually more difficult to breakdown than human waste and may require more frequent service, such as yearly pumping of your tank and additional quantities of bacteria each month.

The drain field for your septic system is specifically calculated to handle the projected waste for your home and includes accommodation for each toilet, shower, tub, sink and drain as well as the size of the septic tank. The placement of the drain field is also specific and approved by the Environment Department so as to not contaminate fresh water sources, holding ponds or well water. Therefore you should know the exact location of your drain field and keep it clear of invasive trees and plants [like Russian Olives, cottonwoods, willows or sycamores to name a few], heavy equipment, trucks and cars or construction materials, all of which might crush or invade the drain field system and impair the drain field function. Replacing a drain field is expensive and messy so protecting the one you have is important. The exact location of your drain field is a part of the septic system permit issued by the Environment Department and will be included in your copy of your permit.
Q: We have only lived in our Tano Road home for a month and when we awakened this morning we had no water coming out of the faucets. I saw a recommendation on the TRA Blog for well repair service from Thompson Water Wells but since it is the weekend they can not come to our property until Monday. What do we do for water in the meantime?

 

A: There is a clever trick to work around your non-operating well. It will require some hoses and a cooperating neighbor. Using the frost-free faucet next to you nearest neighbors well, attach a length of hose. Continue to add lengths of hose across your neighbor’s property on to your property ending at the frost-free faucet next to your own well.

Now it will be necessary to make a short “adapter” hose about 12″ long with female couplers on both ends of the hose which will allow the male end of the hose you have connected to your neighbor’s faucet and the male fitting on the frost-free faucet to be connected. You can buy the female couplers at Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, Big Joe’s Hardware, even at some grocery stores. You can cut off the 12″ hose length from one of your good hoses and simply replace the hose end fitting with another replacement coupler.

Now with your hose attached to your neighbor’s frost-free faucet and also your own frost-free faucet, turn on the frost-free faucet at your neighbor’s well and then turn on your own frost-free faucet next to your well. The water from your neighbor’s well will fill the pressure holding tanks in your well. You will have water for your entire house as normal until your well can be repaired.

 

Q: We just moved to the Tano Road area from a big city. We are new to rural living and want to know about drilling, sharing and maintaining a well.

A: Residents in the Tano Road area are fortunate in that our aquifer is very large and very reliable. Wells in our area vary in depth from 500 feet deep to around 800 feet deep. The driller typically drills down one to two hundred feet after reaching the water level. A submersible pump is then placed at midpoint between the depth to water and the bottom of the well. This placement minimizes sand intake, yet allows for many years of pumping before the pump must be lowered. The well casing can be PVC or steel. PVC is much cheaper, but steel is stronger and also allows the well to be deepened if necessary.

The submersible pump is attached to a water line that is connected to the pressure holding tanks installed near the well. These tanks contain pressurized bladders that force the water to the household. It is recommended that a filter be installed between the pressure tanks and the household(s) to keep the sand from entering the household plumbing system.

A well can be shared by two or more households who share all costs of drilling, operating, and maintaining the well system. Often a water storage tank is installed to minimize the start/stop of the submersible pump. A booster pump is connected between the storage tank and the pressure holding tanks. The operating expenses include electricity and filters.

It is recommended that the well owner have a copy of the driller’s well log which has the well number, depth to water, depth of the well, and other facts. For questions about this, call the Office of the State Engineer:
130 South Capitol Street
Concha Ortiz y Pino Building
P.O. Box 25102
Santa Fe, NM 87504-5102 ~ Phone: (505) 827-6166 Fax:(505) 827-3806
Website: http://www.ose.state.nm.us/

 

Q: My gardener keeps suggesting I install a drip irrigation system for my annuals and perennials and specimen trees. I have no idea what this involves. Is this a good idea?

 

A: The short answer is “yes”. Our very low humidity, hard clay-like soils and wide temperature ranges make drip irrigation a water-saving yet very effective means of irrigating. Drip irrigation supplies water by means of “emitters” or water flow controllers which slowly and precisely deliver specific amounts of water around the soil base of the plant or tree. Once it is determined how much water each plant requires per week, a combination of emitters are arranged around the plant to deliver precisely that much water. The water soaks in deeply into the root base of the plant rather than sprayed in the air on the plant as sprinkler systems do. As a result there is little evaporation of the water in a drip system which is an important water conserving aspect and the water from the emitter soaks the soil which, like a sponge, remains moist much longer than spray from a sprinkler.

To install a drip system on your own is absolutely feasible, depending on the degree of system design and complexity. There are professional installers who will take care of part or complete installations. Firebird, a local retailer of drip irrigation parts and supplies, often gives free classes on how to design and install a drip irrigation system. [www.thefirebird.com, 1808 Espinacitas St, Santa Fe, NM 87505-3854; (505) 983-5264].

Basically, a water supply line [usually 1″] from your main water source is fed to a valve box which contains several water control valves which are independently activated by a magnetic low voltage solenoid. When the valve is open water flows out of the valve through a 3/4″ major supply which feeds a certain water area. Off of the 3/4″ line, 1/8″ spaghetti tubing carries the water to individual emitters around the base of the plant. Several plant areas can be served by a single 3/4″ supply line. Usually one 3/4″ supply line is controlled by one water control valve. Particular emitters can deliver different amounts of water and are calibrated by rate of delivery, such as 1 gallon per hour, 2 gallons per hour, etc. To provide a plant with 20 gallons of water per week, the plant might have 5, 2-gallon emitters around its base and would be watered twice a week.

To control the time and duration of each water control valve an irrigation computer is installed, usually in the garage. The size of the computer can vary according to how many irrigation control valves are used in the drip irrigation system. All weather multi-wire control cable is run from the computer to the valve control box in the ground, a separate pair of wires to control each irrigation control valve. When programmed, the computer sends a low voltage electrical current to the solenoid of the particular irrigation control valve which opens the valve and allows water to flow out the 3/4″ supply line to all of the emitters on this particular water line.

When the time duration for the watering is complete, the computer turns off the electrical current to the solenoid and the irrigation control valve closes shutting off the water flow to the emitters on this water line.

The number of irrigation control valves needed depends on the range of geographic areas to be covered since one 3/4″ water supply line generally is designated for a certain part of your property, such as the “west gardens” or the “east lawn” etc. Since the cable is buried, it is important to install a large enough multi-wire control cable initially with many extra pairs of wires to accommodate future installation of additional irrigation control valves.

Generally, lawn sprinklers should be on separate irrigation control valves since they require much larger water supplies than emitters and need dedicated water pressure to operate effectively.

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