Oh, what a perfectly delightful word fossicking ….too bad the credit goes to Australia and New Zealand for this goodie that can mean search, hunt, explore, ferret, check, forage, or rummage. (I have visited Australia a couple of times so maybe that is where I picked up the verb to fossick.)
And this week, as well as fossicking for capillas, we were, for the first time, fossicking for fossils. Don’t you love it…”fossicking for fossils.” I wanted to see if we could find the fossil beds near San Miguel which are not well known outside the scientific community. There are capillas everywhere so we decided to fossick for capillas in the area near El Ocote or Rancho Ocote which is one of the fossil digs.
The roads in this area vary from paved to rutted trails and luckily our friend and fellow watercolorist, Rick Wendling, offered his truck for this adventure. Because all of the communities near Rancho Ocote or El Ocote are in the municipality of San Miguel de Allende, the book by Robert de Gast, The Churches and Chapels of San Miguel de Allende, is most helpful….listing which communities have capillas, how many, and in what condition. There is a picture in this book of an abandoned but colorful capilla in Las Cañas that looked like a good bet. We found it, but it had been rebuilt and repainted. Although it is not the colorful, charming ruin pictured in de Gast’s book; we decided to paint it anyway.
Linda and I painted from entirely different perspectives so it may look like we painted different capillas, but we did, indeed, paint the same capilla. From my perspective, the entire scene was backlit with the architectural features in the shade and not defined by shadows. Using shadows to define the features is easier for me.
In a previous blog, I wrote about the Rancho Ocote fossil beds. After painting, we did our best to find these fossil beds. The landscape looks much the same as anywhere in the campo (countryside) with nopal, jumping cholla and mesquite as well as cornfields here and there; however, in this area, under the soil cover are up to several meters of volcanic ash-fall beds that can quickly erode into arroyos during the rainy season. These ash-fall beds are, in places, interlayered with river/stream or lake sediments which can be particularly rich in fossils. According to a passing ranch hand, if we were to follow the eroded stream bed, such as the one pictured here, for several kilometers we would eventually come to the major fossil digs. Time ran out….another day we will continue with the fossicking.
Las Cañas: population, 779; elevation 1978 meters; dwellings, 189; Longitud (dec): -100.725833, Latitud (dec): 21.055000
El Ocote: population, 46; elevation, 1995 meters; dwellings, 10; Longitud (dec): -100.688056, Latitud (dec): 21.090000
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