Tag Archives: Navajo

Ants as Miners


If you grew up without television, you’d probably think watching chubby red ants bringing treasures home to their anthills was loads of fun too.

I know I did. Luckily, we had tons of anthills to scope out on our Arizona ranch.

If I stood or squatted on a rock beside the mounds, the ants mostly thought of me as scenery. That was okay with me. Some types of ant attention can be painful, you know.

For hours I watched ants carry bits and pieces of sticks, weeds, rocks, dead insects (especially beetles and wasps) and flicks of flint back to their mounds without a word of complaint.

I never actually witnessed them placing their goodies on the outside of their pebbly homes. Invariably, they took their gleaned material straight into the mysterious opening leading to the central parts of their colony. I was sure all good ants made sure they obtained Queenie’s orders before doing any exterior decorating.

Unless they were rebels.

Ant-Man-Paul-Rudd-Cosplay-Costume-Leather-Jacket-750x750 I don’t think I saw any rebel ants, but I thought I saw one wearing a teeny little leather outfit once. Or did I imagine that?

Anyway, my favorite anthill pickings were tiny hollow bone beads, little bits of ancient pottery and fragments of flint, and obsidian. Less often, I found miniature arrowheads fashioned centuries ago for hunting small animals and birds.

What I never found was an Arizona pyrope garnet—an anthill garnet.

Reportedly, most of the anthill garnets (silicates) are mined by ants from beneath the earth in the Navajo Nation. The gems are not only rare, but also known to be some of the brightest reds of the entire garnet family.

Arizona pyrope garnets were fashioned into bullets by the Navajos in the 1800s. Navajos believed the dark red color helped produce fatal wounds. Or so I’ve heard. I haven’t asked any of my Navajo friends if that’s true or not, so I mention it here only as a point of interest.

One myth I’m happy to squash is about the two and three-carat size “anthill garnets” touted on infomercials and ads. Though sources vary widely about how much weight an ant can carry (from ten to fifty times their own weight…and I lean toward the latter), it’s doubtful an ant can carry much more than a garnet about the size of an English pea.

Thoreau’s take on ants . . . 

Over the centuries, ants have been used as examples of diligence and sacrifice. Most famous people had at least one or two things to say about them.

For example, Thoreau said it wasn’t enough to be busy like the ants. He said, “We should also know what we are busy about.”

I agree. And Thoreau’s end-of-sentence preposition is okay, too.

Likewise, I think Thoreau would agree that ants mining little jewels out of the earth is both resourceful AND amazing.

And no, I don’t believe they use pickaxes.

Just because you may want to know, a few facts about Garnets:

  • Garnets are called carbuncles in the Bible.
  • Garnets have been found in Egypt, dated around 3100 B.C.
  • Garnets were found In Samaria, dated about 2300 B.C.
  • Garnets come in every color.
  • January’s birthstone is a garnet.
  • A brief look at the industrial use of garnets:*
  • Garnets are a 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. To compare, diamonds are about a 10.
  • Since garnets are 1) generally inexpensive, 2) rate high on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, and 3) are easy on equipment, they are preferred for use in cutting metal, plastic, and stone with water-jet cutters.
  • A water jet uses garnets in granular sand 50-, 80- to 120-grit sandpaper manufactured in Coeur d Alene, Idaho.
  • Two hundred hours of use is garnered from one mixing tube of garnet sand grit, vs. only thirty minutes from an aluminum oxide mixture.

*Many thanks to Michael Castaῆeda, water-jet professional, for the technical information about garnets.

Treasures from the earth seem extra special. Have you ever found a treasure gathered by an ant or another kind of insect? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Just for fun . . .

My cat has been borrowing unauthorized media?

I just found out my cat has been borrowing unauthorized media!

 

 

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches summer 2017. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

A Knotty World


Knot on a cord

A knotty world comes with the territory for a protagonist addicted to scarves.

Silki, the main character in my three-book adventure/mystery series set on the Navajo Rez uses knots to fit any occasion. For example, her favorite danger knot for tying her scarves end to end is the Double Overhand Stopper knot, a knot strong enough to hold a person’s weight.

Double Overhand Stopper Knot - Fotolia image

Double Overhand Stopper Knot – Fotolia image

“Hold on a minute, Birdie, while I do something.” I worked my scarf ends into double-overhand-stopper knots, the strongest kind Grandfather ever taught me. He said they were strong enough for mountain climbing. With no light, I had to do my work by feeling. My grubby fingers felt like claws. How far up was Birdie? I double-dogged hoped I had enough scarves to reach from me to her—Summer of the Ancient, Book One

When she tosses aside her usual “chain” of tied-together scarves to wear only one scarf, she ties it in a French-twist knot.

French Twist Knot

French Twist Knot

Now everyone except Grandmother stood in the doorway making sure the corners of their mouths pointed up, not down. My Hermes scarf was tied in a French-twist knot around my neck. Being worn alone was the highest honor I could give any scarf—Summer of the Ancient, Book One

Sometimes Silki’s grandfather, a Korean war veteran and former Marine, tests her knot-knowledge.

 “What kind of knot is that?” Grandfather asked. I looked up into his brown face.

You know, Shi’cheii. It’s a simple overhand knot.

“Use a palomar on the next one, okay?”

I giggled. “No way, Grandfather. That knot ties hooks to our fishing lines when we go to the White Mountains. I could never untie those knots in a hurry.”

“Tie a Turk’s head knot in the scarf with the horses.”

“Birdie and I make bracelets with Turk’s head knots. They’re too crazy for soft scarves.”

Grandfather nodded and pulled the brim of his Phoenix Suns cap further down on his forehead. The crinkles in his eye wrinkles said he was pleased with my answers. He’d been teaching me knots since I’d learned how to tie my shoelacesCanyon of Doom, Book Two

Silki’s horse – Smiles – has had his reins in a knot for…like, forever!

Clove Hitch Knot

Clove Hitch Knot

Their voices dulled as Smiles and I trudged toward the barn. I tied Smiles’ reins to a corral post in a clove hitch knot and headed for the wheelbarrow leaning against the planked wall—Canyon of Doom, Book Two

 Two more examples of my protagonist’s dependence on knots:

 

I untied the long, sheer tangerine scarf threaded through the loops of my cutoffs and pulled it free while I walked down the road to the barn. I tied it in a Windsor knot and slipped it on the gatepost farthest away from where I’d be spraying water—Summer of the Ancient, Book One.

 Desperate times…

An oath would be broken. Would Aunt Susan and the other keepers of the lion’s secrets understand? My brother Nick said desperate times called for desperate action.

I was desperate.

Once again, my scarves were the only weapon I had—Canyon of Doom, Book Two

What about you? Have you visited the Knotty World lately? Click here for some cool scarf-tying tricks, and drop me a line or two. I love to hear from you! 

 

I always love to hear from you.

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hand

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Lolita Tsosie’s Navajo Frybread


fry breadFrybread Recipes are not difficult. Give it a try!

Amounts depend on how much bread you want to make – usually 5 cups of flour for a batch.

To each cup of Blue Bird flour, add:

  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Warm water to make a stiff dough, or
  • ¼ cup powdered milk and warm water to make a stiff dough
  • Hot grease: shortening or lard

Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Always put a little more baking powder than salt so it can rise better in the hot grease.

Add warm water a little at a time so the dough will come out all nice and round. If you add too much water, it gets sticky.

Blue Bird Flour . . . the preferred frybread flour for Navajos and other smart folks.

Blue Bird Flour . . . the preferred frybread flour for Navajos and other smart folks.

When you’re finished making the dough, let it sit for 30 60 minutes.

Heat your skillet with lard or shortening. It has to be plenty melted, and fill the skillet halfway.

Make little round balls about the size of a pool (billiards) ball. Flatten out a dough ball to about ¼” – not too thin, or the heated grease will make it too crisp. You’ll know when the grease is hot enough because the dough browns on one side. Turn it and brown the other side.

Repeat until you have made the amount you wanted.

Drain on paper towels or newspaper.

Enjoy eating “history!”

P. S.  Lolita said she learned her recipes from her grandparents.

 

 

 

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

An old Cowboy’s Recipe for FryBread


 

{7993B11B-BB01-4633-8564-A60E191575E3}-Windmill, Mesa Redondo RanchIn the 1960s, an old cowboy gave this recipe to my mom when we lived on the Mesa Redondo Ranch, Concho, Arizona.

To each cup of flour, add:

  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Enough milk or water to make a stiff dough, or
  • ¼ cup powdered milk and warm water to make stiff dough.

Knead dough until smooth, not sticky, or just make balls about 3” diameter and pull the ball into a 6” circle with fingers. Slash one side from the center out with a sharp knife in five places. Drop into hot grease. Brown on both sides and drain on newspaper or paper towels.

 

 

 

 

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

FryBread – a Bite Out of History



Take a little nibble of frybread and close your eyes.

Hear the ancient winds chanting through the canyons?

Feel the sunlight on your bare skin?

Smell the cedar and sage perfuming the air?

Can you taste the blessing of life?

More than 500 Native American tribes can. For them, frybread history epitomizes a time when they were destitute and steeped in hopelessness. Uprooted from their homelands, and incarcerated on reservations mapped out by the U.S. government, Indigenous people were no longer privy to familiar hunting, trapping and fishing domains. Starving and relying on scarce Army rations in the 1800s, Native Americans concocted a simple bread that became a lifesaver.

History’s Most Startling Frybread Story

Between 1864 and 1866, scout Kit Carson and the U.S. Cavalry drove the Navajos (Diné) from their homes on the Colorado Plateau to Window Rock, Arizona. From there, they were herded like cattle to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, a reservation along the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico.

Navajos called it Hwéeldi.

Fifty-three forced marches in all.

As many as 8,000 Navajos uprooted.

Three to four hundred grueling miles on foot.

Hundreds died.

Slow, elderly or injured Navajos were often shot and killed.

History calls it The Long Walk of the Navajo.

“Many of the Navajo people went to the Arizona mountains to hide. Some of the people are still living there. The Navajos who lived in the desert or valleys had no place to hide. They were either captured for slaves or killed. Some of the people who were captured were taken to Hwéeldi [Ft. Sumner] as captives.” (John Beyale, Sr., OHLW 1989:42) – From A Navajo Diaspora:  The Long Walk to Hwéeldi, by Neal W. Ackerly, Ph.D.

While imprisoned in Fort Sumner, the Diné were given Army rations of flour (varmints included), salt, lard and water. From those few simple ingredients, they created pliable dough, fashioned it into balls, stretched it and fried it in hot lard.

Voilà . . . frybread!

It saved their lives.

It gave them hope.

It ensured the survival of their tribe.

Forget About Frybread?

Most Native Americans share a love and respect for frybread. In recent years, a movement to disqualify frybread as a staple of Native American culture has mostly fallen flat. Who gives up a comfort food that symbolizes the spirit of persistence?

Cut back on eating it and use discretion? Sure. But give up frybread? Never!

It’s round.

It’s puffy.

It’s fried.

It’s delicious.

It’s even funny!

Frybread is Funny?

Yes.

T-shirts, cartoons, comedians, competitions and even movies make light of the soul food of the Indigenous.

All tribes want to claim frybread as their own, and they kid each other about who makes the best. Now, “More Than Frybread” is the only feature length film devoted entirely to the love and passion of frybread. It features a fictional frybread competition among twenty-two tribes and spoofs all that is sacred – and not-so-sacred – about the golden-brown delicacy.

You know you want to check it out!

So, eat it plain or stack it high with everything from meat, chicken, and olives to salad, fruit, honey or jam. Just remember…when you take a bite out of frybread, you’re taking a bite straight out of history.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy frybread? Do you make it yourself? Is it a recipe passed down from your grandmother/mother/aunt? For a delicious homemade version, see  Lolita Tsosie’s Navajo FryBread recipe. A little simpler version can be found here.  Don’t forget to buy your Blue Bird flour first – it’s the best!

Hwéeldi Bééhániih

 

 

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.