El Pedregal Palapa Today

98… Returning to El Pedregal’s ever-present spirit… second of two parts…

Drinking beer in the late afternoon outside El Pedregal"s strawbale house, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Here is a place to come together and be a warm late afternoon dream.

Liliana Carosso, on the right, and Ginny Brown, along with an unidentified woman in the middle, enjoy a natural moment. Lilliana is a prominent Alamos, Sonora, Mexico real estate agent,
Alamos Realty. Here, one is in another world. Time loses importance and nature, and a couple of beers, encourages relaxed deep breathing.

Kit Nuzum returns to Alamos

Pedregal under construction, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

From dirt and straw and other natural elements a large studio is born

Elizabeth’s son, Kit, returned from one of his many global travels and took over the task of finishing the straw-bale studio. He also managed the digging of a well at the spot chosen by a water dowser. A solar pump was installed and irrigation began with water from beneath El Pedregal”s surface. Elizabeth purchased indigenous and rare trees and plants. And as the nature is for these parts some took, and some didn’t as any Alamos gardner has experienced.

Elizabeth Nuzum and her son Kit with the construction team and the Friedlobs, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Most of construction team and advisors gather around Elizabeth Nuzum.

Kit had no prior working knowledge of straw-bale construction and “just went for it” with the help of Chone, a cousin of Chacho. They poured an earthen adobe floor with the help of Steve Frielobs. The windows were made by Angel Rosas. The adobe interior walls that made the kitchen and bathroom was there but unfinished. Kit and Chone, along with several others, finished the walls and the loft decking as well as the grand stair case, designed by Alamos resident Irmine Stelzner, with wood from the old Boors monastery on the southwest corner of the Plaza. The original douglas fir came by train from Oregon in 1910. Irmine’s husband Allen Stelzner designed and made the iron latch on the front door.

Creating color pigment from nearby hills

Finished exterior of the straw bale studio at El Pedregal, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson

The finished exterior blended in with the surroundings.

Elizabeth’s straw-bale studio was originally painted with a palette of colors made from dirt in the surrounding hills. The soil that would be used to make the paint came from a spot that was along a long walk that Chacho took me on the last day of my first visit to Alamos. Chacho said it was a local custom. As we were returning to Alamos I asked Chacho if the earth was purple and he nodded yes. In this one area there was literally a rainbow of dirt. Fifteen years later, Kit and I, along with a couple of assistants and a wheel barrow, set off to find this magical place. We found it not far from El Pedregal along with shards of am old pottery. The work crew spent the morning gathering earthen colors from the area as I filmed. Later, Kit mixed the earth-toned dirts – pale green, red, blue, green, ivory, white and lavender with prickly pear and agave goo called baba. The solution sat for a week before glue was added and wiped onto the interior walls: home made paint.

Later, author Paul Molyneaux, seeking a quiet harbor from his noisy young children, finished his book The Doryman’s Reflection, a Fisherman’s Life in the serene straw-bale studio. Tony Estrada, director of the Museo de Costumbrista and artist, sculpted a centaur for Elizabeth that was placed beneath the fig tree.

View of Tecolote Hill from El Pedegral, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

The morning begins with seeing where we will be in a couple of hours.

On this summer day in 1996 I would go on a hike with Chacho, his young son Sereno, his girlfriend and Chone to the top of Tecolete Hill, seen here sun-capped. Sierra de Alamos rises up in the background. We would leave from El Pedregal at sunrise and be atop Tecolote Hill in a couple of hours. This turn out to be a day of exercise and aroma therapy in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.

El Pedregal today

Elizabeth sold El Pedregal to Jennifer and David MacKay in 2005. They added another 17 acres to what is now El Pedregal Nature Lodge and Retreat Center. They have also upgraded the infrastructure and added a couple of casitas. Today, they offer lodging, nature tours, sunday brunches and yoga lessons amongst many other activities that they are involved with.

Bird bath at El Pedregal, Alamos Sonora, Mexico

Elizabeth's intent was to have both a nature preserve and artist studio

I recently enjoyed watching David Wilson’s Big Birding Day on PBS’ POV, point-of- view, series. The 2011 12-minute film features David Mckay as a birding guide for several birders intent on a big birding day. The film documents the world of competitive bird watching where one tries to see, or hear, as many bird species as one can in 24 hours. The opening scene takes place under the Pedregal’s palapa as they prepared for a day of ambitious adventure. I was struck by David’s curiosity and connection to his environment.

I had spent nine years filming wildlife on the Tulelake, Lower Klamath, Clear Lake, Upper Klamath Lake and Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuges along the California-Oregon border. If David had come and spent a couple of days in the field with me he would have had a wonderful time. And I am equally sure I would enjoy spending a couple of days with David Mckay in Alamos and surrounding habitats. Both of these regions are known for diversity of flora and fauna, especially numbers of bird species. There are birds that visit both Alamos and Tulelake on their yearly migrations.

Elizabeth Nuzum placed this bird bath on Pedregal’s giving ground for her small friends to use, just as she built the straw-bale studio and palapa for friends to visit with friends, even if it is only communing with one’s self, alone.

This entry was aided by notes from Elizabeth Nuzum, Kit Nuzum and Joan Winderman.

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