Monday, November 24, 2008

a days work

I got up at 5 this morning and started the day. I usually like to get up a little before the sun so I can relax, gather my thoughts and slowly work myself into the day. The first job is to let the dogs out. As soon as the sun rises it's time to let the dogs in to be fed and time to feed and let the chickens out. They can get quite impatient if I'm late. After the chickens eat I come back for a nutritious breakfast and then off to work. Today I hooked up 2 more timers for the watering systems. It's going to be a great time and water saver. Last year we used sprinklers and they wasted a lot of water plus we had to turn them on and off manually which took up a lot of time and meant we sometime had to get up in the night to turn them on and off. When I'm finished all of the gardens will be on timers. We're planting as we get the systems set up.
In one of the lower gardens we have around 50 pineapple plants. We save the tops from the pineapples we buy and plant them. It takes a couple years for them to produce more pineapples. True recycling. In the same garden we have a huge papaya tree, a breadfruit tree, as well as some bush sized basil plants from last year. There are also 6 berry plants that grow in the tropics. I'll ask Lorenzo what they are called and mark them. I'm going to make an effort to label everything this year. I seeded okra in the same garden this morning.
We have a lot of packets of flower seeds left over from a couple of years ago. I don't know if they're any good but I hate to just throw them away. I'm going to plant all the old seeds without marking them. It'll be fun surprise to see what pops up.
I also started some ginger root that we bought in Tepic. Amaranth loves ginger and uses it to make many delicious things. I had a screen with a frame around it that fit nicely over the wheelbarrow. I use it to strain out the bigger chunks of sand and dirt. The old one lasted me 10 years before it disintegrated. I planned on getting a new one made at the welding shop but hated to leave the farm so I used some material I had on hand. I came up with a beautiful one that is much sturdier than the old one. I'll be writing you in 20 years about making the replacement. I finished the job by painting it a bright yellow. Easier to locate. I'm in the process of painting all of our tools a bright color. Someone will lay them in the grass and we won't find them for a year sometimes. Amaranth has a Japanese hoe that is her favorite tool. It's been lost 2 or three times. This year it's getting a florescent orange paint job. We'll be able to find it at night.
Lunch is always a gourmet meal made mostly of things we've grown here. After lunch it's siesta time and we nap and read a book. We're both working on Barbara Kingsolver's latest "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle". It's a good read with lots of interesting facts mixed in. It's about her family's decision to change their food sources from international to local. A good one to add to your library.
I spent the afternoon watering the odd tree and cleaning up some of the palm trees. At five I started the first timer. It'll go on for an hour every 12 hours. The next timer starts at 6 and repeats again in 12 hours etc. By having them go on in the early morning and evening it frees up the water to use on other things during the day.
Well, that's about it for now. Amaranth has just finished baking some pesto fan rolls for tomorrow. Time to shut things down and retire for the evening. Wally

Night time follies

Again it's night. All the daytime creatures have settled in for the night and the night creatures are just beginning. We have a lot of windows in our house that provide us with an amazing view during the day. At night they are screens into the discovery channel. When we have the lights on winged insects of all descriptions flock to the glass. At the same time creatures that eat flying insects stop by for their evening meal. In our bathroom we have a 2 meter by 2 meter arched window. It's home to 7 0r 8 small lizards that feast nightly. Some of the older ones are quite obese. Under normal circumstances, in a tree or such, they'd catch the random moth that flew too close. With the light we provide it's much like fishing with dynamite. They have an abundance. They each have an area staked out and if another lizard wanders too close they bite a leg and run them off. The big ones stake out the top of the glass where the bugs all seem to end up. We once saw a program about this type of lizard on TV while in the States. We found that we knew more about the lizards than the narrator. We'd see them from the bottom as well as the top.
We also have some rather fat frogs that will splat on the glass for a snack. Last night we had a beautiful green praying mantis running around madly eating small insects. Our house is a functioning part of the ecosystem, day and night.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sun's down

The sun's down and I'm settled in to start off on this new adventure. I've been on this farm a lot of years and a lot has happened. This day is one in a long string of days. As I write I'll mix in news from past days alongside the news of the day.
I got this land, about 10 acres, 18 years ago. I lived by myself until about five years ago when I married a friend named Amaranth. I brought her down here on our honeymoon and we never left. She hadn't been to Mexico and was amazed at how beautiful it is. Life here has a whole different quality than most other places. You can open up and take it all in. When we get into cities with their busyness we find ourselves closing down just to block out the intensity of it all. Much too fast. I looked all over the world for this place, it's home.
Our life here is all about living each day awake and aware and taking the time to notice and learn from the wonderful world that surrounds us. This blog is offered, to those who find it, as a glimpse of our lives as we go through our days. Welcome.
At present Amaranth and I are in the midst of planting our vegetable gardens. This year we're turning to soaker hoses to get the watering done and also using up a large pile of pumice, left over from last year, as mulch. We planted lots of leafy greens a few days ago and they're already popping up in delicate green rows.
For years I've had an older Mexican man named Lorenzo helping me out on the farm keeping vines and other things at bay. We found out this year that he's also a very good gardener. I've never used chemicals on the farm and Lorenzo is a big fan of them so we never could agree on how a garden should be managed. This year when he suggested I lay down some white powder to kill ants I told him Amaranth was allergic to chemicals and that was that. He's fine with organic. It's been a pleasant surprise to see how happy Lorenzo is in the garden. We're both lost in our thoughts while we're working but share a few thoughts when we're taking a break in the shade.
When we first started our gardens they were the traditional rectangular plots. That worked fine but when they were done you had these odd looking, geometrical shapes that didn't fit in with the randomness of nature. We decided to make them irregular, rounded shapes with flowers planted in and around them. Now when the vegetables have been harvested they blend in nicely and don't look so sad.
This year, like every other year, I'm planting more fruit and nut trees. I just got five Macadamia nut trees and I'm also beginning to plant some Mangosteen trees I got 3 years ago. We have around fifty different types of fruit and nut trees. I lost count a few years back and haven't gotten around to cataloging them. I plan on making it a project some day when I need something to do. I'd like to come up with some way of labeling each tree as I'm not the best at remembering the names of things. Mostly when I see a tree or bush I like I get it and put it in the ground. I don't mind not knowing the name cause I know it's something I like and it's going to produce something good to eat.
When I was a kid we were poor and didn't always have a lot to eat. My dream was to one day have a place with lots of fruit trees so I could eat all I wanted. My dream came abundantly true. There's nothing more wonderful than fresh picked mangoes, we have eight varieties, or lychees. Amaranth and I can eat a five gallon bucket in one sitting. We like eating them in the chicken yard and sharing an occasional lychee with the chickens.
We have about thirty chickens, four ducks and two geese. They live in a large aviary with a pond that I built beside our house. They all have names because we don't plan on eating them. They share their eggs instead. If we want to an occasional chicken dinner we go down to the village and buy a whole barbecued chicken with rice, salad, hot sauce and tortillas for about six dollars. Much easier than killing and plucking etc. I know how to do all that but I don't feel like it. Someday if I'm lost in the woods and a chicken wanders by I might, but for now we have a peace treaty.
We also have seven dogs we've rescued from the streets. Dupy, Winky, Penny, Lucy, Emily, Sparky and Opey. We didn't plan on seven it's just hard to resist a pair of sad eyes looking up at you. We stopped at seven because we wanted to be able to take care of them all and any more would have made it pretty hard. It's a lot like having seven kids. I grew up in a family of six kids and it's very similar.
We spend a lot of time, each day, with our animals and they've let us share their secret lives. Our dogs are a pack and we're part of the pack. We're also part of the flock. That's a picture of me and Hiromi the goose up in the corner. We thought Hiromi was a female until we actually got a female goose. Hiromi isn't the typical aggressive goose. He loves sitting on my lap and leading the way when I enter the aviary where he lives with his chicken and duck neighbors. When I have the hammock up he likes sleeping on my stomach. The chickens, ducks and Helena, the other goose, all gather round and take their naps too. The aviary they live in is huge. It has some very nice palm frond houses and a couple of palm frond tee pees for shade. My wife says it looks like a vacation resort for fowl. The area they spend most of their time in is enclosed by plastic fencing with fish net over the top to keep hawks out. They also have a smaller area that's even more secure to sleep in. The possums come by at night but can't get in. The swimmers in the group have a large, fifteen foot round, pond to swim in. During the day we let them out into an adjoining area to forage.
Our oldest rooster came with five hens. The hens were normal sized hens but the rooster was very tall. A normal size chicken could almost walk under him. His children are magnificent. We once got some eggs from a neighbor that were green. We put them under a sitting hen and got three hens and one rooster who grew up to be very aggressive. There are lots of fighting roosters around here, I think his dad was one. Anyway, when the young rooster grew up he decided to challenge the big one and the big one hid his head in the fence. He's a pacifist. We got rid of the aggressive one because here peace rules. The big rooster, we call him "Big Bird", is also a good father. He, sometimes sits on the eggs when a hen needs a break. Sometimes he sleeps next to the nest with his head beside the mother to be. We have five or six of his children who are roosters and they all get along fine. People told us that the geese and ducks would try to kill each other but they're peacefully co-existing.
During the summer we got some Costa Rican chickens. They're tiny. They look like toy chickens. Right off the bat the little rooster picked a fight with Big Bird. I ended up giving the Costa Ricans a place of their own and they're perfectly happy. They hatched out four teeny little babies a few weeks back. At the same time one of the big chickens abandoned a baby so we put it in with the little mother. Her babies were all black and the other was a pretty yellow. The big baby ran straight for the little mom and popped under her. She looked a bit shocked but accepted it. After a while the big baby got too big to fit so it slept beside her. In the days that followed a snake got one of the black babies and the little yellow one got herself stuck in the fence and died. Those things just break your heart but you mourn them and keep going. All life is a celebration, no matter how short or long. We take it all in and cherish the time we have together.
Well, it's getting late and it's time to hit the hay. We usually get up before the sun and go to bed a little after it sets. Our days flow naturally and clocks only come into play when we have to go somewhere outside the farm. Good Night. Wally