Tuesday, October 19, 2010

From deluge to delight...

While Wally was delirious with dengue, I was with my mother in Tucson.  The rains at home were so heavy that the rivers swelled into the area villages taking out bridges and breaking up the roads.  There were several big mud slides too.  I worried about Wally, but it wasn't possible to get home.  Others tried to get in from the airport in Puerto Vallarta and were redirected inland to Guadalajara to travel by bus to Tepic, but that was as far as they got.  It was a grandote mess and the roads are treacherous.  The rains ended a week after my return and to our everyone's relief.
The clouds have been blown away to skies that are clear and blue, blue, blue.  It is the beginning of our favorite part of the year.  The weather turns heavenly and everything growing is at the peak of vibrancy after a long drink and a break from the heat. 

And there's the revamping of the house.  100% humidity takes a toll on everything.  I've been in a cleaning frenzy ever since I got home.  It's purge-time.  I'm feeling lighter.  I'm looking forward to living in the open air and moving the furniture outside.  This year, we will have to paint the inside and outside again.  The harsh sun and the heavy, wind-driven rains of the last 6 years have scoured the outside.  But Wally and I love changing colors!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Soaking up the sunshine.

Well hello again.  The rainy season has passed and we're still here.  I got Dengue fever and Salmonella in the middle of it and was out of commission for a month or so.  All the while the living green universe that surrounds us kept growing and growing.  I'd walk outside and stare in amazement wondering how I was ever going to tame it again.  It's the sort of amazement that I feel when I see some pretty little plant that has pushed its way up through the blacktop.  Nature is patiently persistent.  If we were to go away for a year this place would revert back to a jungle of green vines and our house would be a lump in the middle of it.

How about a little chicken news for all the chicken fans out there.  A while back Amaranth and I were out in one of the chicken pens watching some of the chickens we'd just moved into a new pen.  It was one of the Costa Rican roosters and a Costa Rican hen that had always seemed a bit odd.  We paired them up cause he wanted to fight the other roosters all the time and she was a strange wall flower who never fit in with the other hens.  She was the runt I wrote about a while back.  As we were watching them explore their new pen Amaranth noticed the hen was bumping into things.  It turns out the poor little hen was blind.  We named her Helen after Helen Keller.  We realized she needed some of the same things that blind people need.  She needed the things in her home to stay in the same place so she could get around.  Her food and water are also always in the same place  As time has passed we've noticed that the rooster clucks and scratches the dirt to call her over when he's discovered something interesting to eat.  We put another Costa Rican hen and her two babies in with Helen and she's adapted to them as well.  Daddy rooster clucks and scratches and teaches the babies how to look for food.  He's an all around good guy.  I suppose we ought to come up with a name for him.  Any suggestions?

Moochie news:  Moochie Poochie quit growing when he was 6 months old.  He's a real mini.  A short while before he stopped growing I said to Amaranth, " wouldn't it be cool if he stayed this size?"   So there you go, we now have Mini the Moochie.  He's just fun, we play with him all day long.  He's very vocal, making all sorts of groaning, moaning and whining sounds.  It's a language we understand.

All of our plants did  fine during the rain.  We're on enough of a slope so they didn't drown.  I had a hard time finding some of them.  The vines and other plants had completely buried them and I had to use my detective skills to locate them.   Sometimes things just looked completely unfamiliar so I'd get close to where I thought they were and start pulling up plants until I came to where they actually were.  It was challenging and fun.  I didn't lose a one.  The plants that did the best were the peanut butter plants.  Their fruit actually tastes like sweet peanut butter.  They tripled in size.  We've also got tons of delicious papayas getting ripe.  We have one for breakfast every day.

We hear a lot about how bad things have gotten economically and I'm glad I'm here.  We have a year-round growing season and we don't have to worry about heating bills.  Self sufficiency is a tough thing to accomplish but we do alright.  We live outside a small fishing village and the locals live day to day.  No huge salaries to build a bank account around but they do alright.

Today we got in a couple of volunteers from British Columbia.  They're in their mid twenties, Emily and Peter.  We like them.  They're interested in things here and can't wait to go to work.  Tomorrow we'll have a girl from France coming for a week.  It's always good for us when we get people who want to learn.

Well, my mind says it's time to hit the hay.  The writing part of my brain is awake.  I'll try to keep up a daily posting.  We've got plenty going on here, that's for sure.  Bye for now.  Wally 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It's been a month since we last blogged. If you've wondered what happened, it's because it's the rainy season, as usual. We haven't had good phone or dial-up internet so connection with the outside is spotty and unreliable. At best we can check our email but it is a long process of multi-tasking. Generally, I connect, make the bed, type in my email, do a little vacuuming, open an email, vacuum some more, etc... It can take 45 minutes to look at 3-5 emails.

Each afternoon the skies become laden with gray clouds that pile up and rumble with thunder building until it breaks into torrents of hard rain. At night the lights are strobing on the walls of our rooms and we brace ourselves with each bright flash for a crackling, crashing, VA-BOOM! Believe it or not, we go to sleep. By morning, the rain is gentle, the lightening is distant and softly illuminating and the mountain tops are left with a thick white mist making us feel like we're in Washington's Cascades. It's part of our normal life for this time of year. In 6 years we have lost 3 modems and several phones due to lightening strikes. Twice the atmospheric charge made our hair stand on end and the air snapped and cracked a blue light like a whip in the room. Sometimes at night we watch the dramatic show of nature from the veranda before turning in.

So, what are our days like during the rainy season? Wally stays busy tending his trees. He's been taking out mature mangos so that his young, new exotics will have more sun and more space to mature. He works alone, felling trees one by one, then cutting them and hauling them away. He's super-strong and fit from handling the heavy chainsaw and hauling heavy branches. His stamina is incredible.

My days are mostly inside. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. When Wally comes in he's thirsty and hungry and I like to reward him. I bake bread in this crazy heat starting early in the morning. I also have more to do to keep the house clean with wetness being the culprit, ie. mud, dogs and sweat-soaked clothes. In between floors and chores I paint, read, study Spanish and think. In the afternoon I venture outside to exercise the dogs, collect eggs and fruit, and look at Wally's projects. As the light fades and the rumbling grows stronger we all merge back to the house. We shower against the green-lit backdrop of the mountains and the strobing of lightening. The dogs always come in to watch the ritual. I take a scrubber to Wally's body to rid him of ticks and dirt and anything else that has stuck to him and we talk about the work of the farm, catching up on each other's day. Sometimes if one of the dogs is particularly odorous we snag him for a scrub in the tub too. The rest of the pack seek out whatever dim corner they can find to vanish unnoticed. After we're good and clean we stretch out in the bed and each dog settles on his own futon around our bed on the floor. We watch the light show against closed eyes, listen to the weather and one another and so another day has passed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A very, very, very fine house...

Outside it's raining and thunder is rumbling. Wally is finishing installing a gate in the chicken yard. He's mixing cement in a wheel barrow, pouring an upright post and threshold. Wally has painted the gate a lovely lavender and despite the overcast afternoon and the rain the gate looks cheerful. The chickens always enjoy Wally's projects on their turf. All eyes are watching and they are engaged in all manner of happy-talk.

Inside and outside, the music is Chopin and Bach coming from our XM radio. Remember the lovely pink housing and stand Wally made for it? Well, he also connected the radio to some magnificient-sounding speakers which are pointed out into the chicken yard from the kitchen window. The volume is up so Wally and the chickens can enjoy the concert.

Inside the kitchen, the dogs and I are also enjoying the music... and the smells. I let them come in because of the thunder. There is no greater contentment for them than to be with me when I'm cooking. This is where they earn their keep as kitchen aids licking the stuff that falls on the floor and scouring my pans with their tongues. I just baked some ginger cookies using our home-grown ginger. I also made a schmoozie - I like the way the French say smoothie, it sounds affectionate - with 2 types of mangoes, passion fruit and yaka, all grown here on the farm. It's cozy up here, as I bake and listen to the music and look out the windows. I never tire of my view of the mango orchards. The trees are drinking deeply and their leaves are glowing with green light.
Everything is ready to greet a tired, wet farmer.  My heart is full...

"Our house is a very, very, very fine house
with chickens in the yard.
life used to be so hard
now everything is easy cuz of you...."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Homemade iguana

I made Moochie his own personal toy iguana by stuffing an old t-shirt into an old sock.  It still looks like a sock but Moochie thinks it is an iguana and he carries it with him all over the house. This morning we saw him sitting on the deck with his iguana beside him taking in the view.  He also likes using it as a pillow when sleeping.  It's his best friend and as such gets chewed on a lot.  We thought he might like playing tug of war with the other dogs but he's an iguana hog.  He won't let any of the other dogs touch it.  A gentle growl lets them know how precious it is to him.  Something so simple has given hours of entertainment.       

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Watercolor, Wally and wood

One of the nicest things Wally has done for me is to have a table made so I can stand to paint. Being short, I need an uncommon height to comfortably paint. Now I have a generous table of perfect dimensions made from huanacaxtle, a wood so hard that termites turn the other way.  The table has a sliding shelf with my supplies.  Painting is easy and accessible now.

This is what's on my table.  It's a common tree, though nothing here is common to me.  The seed pods look like big paper figs.  Painting is a way to stay in wonder, to see and see playfully, experimentally and experientially.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chicks and Mud

Well folks, I sat down tonight not knowing what I'd write.  I figured something would inspire me and as I sat quietly waiting the faint sound of rain falling caught my attention.  I opened the window in front of me so I could hear better.  The rain sounds clean to me and the gentle breeze caresses my face and cools my lungs as I breathe in.  This place keeps you fully awake and aware.  Nothing about it is ordinary.

The plants surely do appreciate the rain.  All the dust that has collected on their leaves during the dry season is washed away and a celebration of green begins.  I know their roots are happy also, not only for the moisture but for the deep down cooling that the rain and the cloudy days bring.

I have a lot of new plants to get into the ground around now and the wet dirt offers up a challenge.  My post hole diggers sink into the wet soil easily and comes out just as easily, but it's a problem getting the sticky mud to release.  It gets tiring quickly.  Sometimes I tap the points of the post hole digger on a rock but it is quickly buried in mud too, and another rock is needed.  Slows me down a bit but it feels good when the plant is finally in its new home.

Mud is also a lubricant or in the case of my sandals a lubricant and a glue.  Yesterday as I was walking up the hill  to the house my sandals suddenly spun around on my feet and I found myself walking on the inside of their tops.  They were more mud than sandals and I ended up going barefooted which felt very good. One of tomorrows challenges will be to remove the 10 pounds of mud from my sandals.  The best choice of footware during the rainy season are shoes that lace up, preferably hightops.  They stay on better and you don't have to clean out the inside of them.

My niece Anne just had a baby boy on the 6th of July.  We also had a new baby boy on the 6th and, just by coincidence they are both named Charles Anthony.  Only their last names are different.  My great nephews last name is Jones.  Our new chicks last name is Chicken.  Charles Anthony Chicken - Charlie.  We also have chicks named Emily, Jack and Andrew, also named for my great niece and nephews.  All of the chicks are tiny little Costa Rican's.  They are very tiny when born and end up being about 8 inches tall when fully grown.  Eternally cute, like all our nieces and nephews.    I just added a nursery in the Costa Rican pen just to give the chicks a safe place to grow until they're big enough to fly up to a perch at night.  Little Charlie has two mothers to take care of him.  Sometimes another hen will move into the nest while the mom is sitting on the eggs and when the babies hatch they're co-madres.  Makes me want to name the mothers Anne and Jenny after my nieces.

Well, time to hit the hay.  See you tomorrow and thanks for all the nice comments and birthday wishes.  We've got lots of new chickens on the way and lots more without names if you have any suggestions let us know.  We'll post pictures of all the new chicks and tell you the stories of their lives as they grow  Bye for now.  Wally

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wally's birthday!

I had a little surprise gathering to celebrate Wally's birthday.  It was at a ramada on the river just below our property - a lovely green, cool, and pristine spot.  This time of year, the ocean water is very warm and not very refreshing, but with the rains, the river is flush with fresh, mountain water that is always cool.  When it's hot it's the place to be.  Just the sound of the water makes you feel cool.
It was also our friend, Adan's birthday.  He is a farmer too.  We roasted them both with a new rendition of Hello Dolly, only it was Hello Wally.  We passed out song sheets so everybody joined in  the singing.  I forgot to look at Wally while we were singing because I was intent on getting the lyrics right.  I wish I saw his face.  Anyway, you can see, he had a happy, happy birthday.
And these are happy days for us.  The farm is flourishing.  Wally's birthday present was several more exotic fruit trees.  This week Wally inventoried our trees and came up with 110 varieties, and there are some he didn't include.  This is Wally's passion.  He loves tending his nursery and walking around the property assessing each tree.  In the course of doing that he sees a day-full of other wonders.  When he comes in, he tells me what he's seen or he brings me something which he makes me close my eyes as he puts it in my hands.  Today he described a small hibiscus that is blooming for the first time.  He started the plant from a cutting.  It is a pure pink with a tinge of lavender and a white stamen with yellow velvet anthers. 

Today we also celebrate the first day of our great-nephew, Charlie.  Charlie came into the world to the welcome of many loving arms and joy-full anticipation.  Makes our hearts brimming-full to think about the love that envelopes his life from the beginning.  Wish we could all realize how infinitely precious our lives are to one another.  I like what e e cummings said, "be of love a little more careful than of anything."  Be as careful of love as we are of newborns.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I got stung by a scorpion today and as I was contemplating writing about it I found myself being drawn back through a complex web of incidents that led up to the actual stinging.

The roots of this story are like some exotic tropical vine that twists and turns in all sorts of complicated and interesting ways.  Along the way they wrapped around me and I became part of the story.

There are many places I could break into this story but I choose to go back to a place where a man named Ramone had a lot of dental problems and not a lot of money.  He worked out a deal with his dentist to trade a small parcel of land for all the dental work he needed.  The land was surrounded by larger pieces of land and one of those pieces was owned by an American woman.  No one knows for sure but the general consensus is that the dentist had a plan to get the American woman to buy the land for a lot of money, a lot more than it was worth.  Over a period of several years he built a tower.  On the weekends he'd show up with his friends some beer and a strange assortment of construction materials.  The base of the tower wasn't very big, maybe 8 feet by 8 feet but it was  3 or 4 stories tall and it leaned a bit.  It had its desired effect.  The lady was very nervous and worried that the tower would fall and perhaps crush her or someone coming to visit her.  It was an amazingly ugly sight.  It defied gravity and all the laws of physics.  You found yourself staring at it waiting for it to fall before your eyes. 

Over a period of 5 years there were many negotiations but nothing was ever resolved.

This morning I decided to pay a visit to someone else who happened to live near the tower.  I had some spinach vines that I'd started and I wanted to give him a couple.  I pulled into his driveway and got out to look for him.  He wasn't in his house but both of his trucks were there so I figured he was somewhere on his property.  As I was walking around looking for him I heard the sound of loud pounding.  I headed in that direction.  He and 3 other men were in the process of knocking down the tower.  They had already knocked down half of the tower and were making short work of the rest.  It turned out the dentist had finally decided to sell the property, tower and all, to my friend for an undisclosed amount.

I sat and watched for a while but soon found myself drawn to participate in the destruction.  I started out by moving ruble out of the lady's driveway and advanced to actual removal of parts of the tower left standing.  Some of the blocks came loose simply by my pulling on them.  they were, more or less, just sitting there.  When the guy with the sledge hammer set it down to take a break I picked it up and took my turn on knocking down the tower.  I'd been working for about 10 minutes when I felt a sharp stinging sensation on the back of my thigh.  I've been stung by scorpions 20 times in the past and I recognized the sensation.  I put down the sledge hammer, climbed off the rubble and headed around the corner of a nearby wall.  I quickly removed my overalls and searched their interior for the culprit.  It was hiding in one of the folds.  I dispatched it to another plane of existence, put my overalls back on and headed for home and a big gulp of kombucha tea.
kombucha tea is the antidote for scorpion venom.  It completely eliminates any reaction to the scorpion venom if you drink it soon after getting stung.    Unfortunately,  It took me  about a half hour to get home so I was already feeling the effects.  It's like getting a shot of Novocaine at the dentists office.  I drank the kombucha which helped keep the venom from spreading, but it's till pretty uncomfortable.

So, I ended up getting stung by a scorpion which made me feel like I'd just been to the dentist, while tearing down a crazy dentist's tower.  Wasn't there an episode of "The Twilight Zone" like this?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Killer bees

Those creatures on the left are a killer/honey bee mix.  I met them yesterday while cutting down a palm tree with my chainsaw.  I was concentrating on the cut I was making when I started noticing a buzzing sound much louder than the chainsaw.  I thought to myself, "What the heck is that?"  I looked up and the air around me was solid with bees.  It only took a fraction of a second for my brain to tell my feet to get moving.  I did one of those cartoon moves - my feet running while I was spinning around in mid air.  After I got some distance between us I noticed that I hadn't been stung.  The bees were still back where I left them.  They were swarming and normally swarming bees won't sting you.  I'd worked with a beekeeper many years ago and he taught me a lot about bees.  I just wasn't sure about the killer-mix bees.  I knocked the bees out of the palm tree so technically they were not swarming.  Maybe they were just as disoriented as I was.  Anyway, after a few minutes they settled down in a palm branch and I went back to clearing the palm branches away.
Somewhere in the middle of that bunch of bees is the queen.  The bees surround her to protect her and keep her cool by directing the heat away from her with their wings.  Later, I turned the sprinkler on near them to get them to move to a better location.  I wouldn't want curious Moochie to run into them.  

The picture on the right is the new home of our xm radio.  It's made up of an old fan and part of an old clock.  Our xm's new home has a built-in amplifier, volume switch and power converter.  It also has external speakers from a surround sound system that quit working.  We now have a wonderful sounding music experience.  It's not bad to look at either.  Kind of reminds me of one of those old tv's they had in the 50's. 

We also got into a little Winky repair.  One of our female dogs is in heat and Winky suffered her wrath when she got tired of explaining that no means no.  She gave him a few puncture wounds and opened a one inch long gash above his eye.  It was open right down to the bone.  The fight happened on Sunday and the vet, who is 2 hours a way, wouldn't be open until 10 on Monday morning.   Winky needed stitches.  If we waited until Monday morning the edges of the wound would have already started to heal and the vet wouldn't have been able to stitch him up.  We thought about stitching him up ourselves but the wound was very close to his eye.  I finally had an inspiration.  We cleaned the wound, pushed the edges together and smeared some glue called Goop on the cut.  It dries in seconds and held the wound shut.

Today we used a small electric trimmer to cut the hair under the edges of the glue and finally got the wad of glue to come off.  The cut was clean and pretty much healed.  We smeared on some antibiotic cream and turned him loose.  Winky isn't scratching or bothering with his eye so it looks like we performed another successful field surgery.  Around here we think quick and make use of whatever materials we have at hand.   

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Overall denim blues...

I tackled my heaped-up mending basket - all denim overalls in every kind of disrepair.  I save the most ragged overalls for the hardware.  Basically when they are worn out that's the only thing left.  One day I may take all these worn out overalls and turn them into art by fiberglassing them in a standing position and lining the driveway on both sides. 

It's getting difficult to find good overalls these days.  Wally has always depended on thrift stores to keep him clothed but the last few times we've checked we haven't found any or we settle on ex-large ladies overalls (no zipper).  Might be worth a trip to Iowa.  What are farmers wearing these days?

Wally says they are the perfect clothing.  He likes them baggy so that he has lots of moving room and ventilation.   That's the Scotsman in him - the kilt is in his genes.  He also likes all the pockets and says it's like wearing a purse.  I thoroughly check those pockets before I launder.  Sometimes there's enough dirt to grow sweet potatoes and enough gravel to mix cement, not to mention popsicle wrappers, feathers, wire, irrigation parts and toothpicks.

He is so partial to them that once when he was down to nothing to wear, he took a pair of Levi's with a 44" waist and sewed a bib on them from overalls that had worn legs.

Most people know this about us, when we got married we both wore overalls!   For me it was a meaningful way to show my acceptance and commitment to Wally.  He's always going to be an overall-man and now and forever, I'm one of him.

If anyone out there is garage sale-ing or thrift-store shopping and comes across some overalls you'd be doing me a huge favor to shop for me.  I have a 3'x3' space where my mending basket now sits that I'd rather use for an easel. 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

New name, new address

A friend recently asked us to give refuge to a yellow-headed parrot that was threatened by his neighbors.  We were excited to have a parrot.  There was a problem though.  He didn't like men.  It's obvious that he had suffered from being mistreated.  The parrot loved and trusted me but was jealous and obnoxious when Wally was around.  I figured it would take a little time to re-train him.  When another friend and my best egg customer, Roxanne, called, I told her about our new family member and she told me that she used to have a yellow-head named Wally!  She had named him for a dear friend, Wallace.  Roxanne had a terrible accident. She was hit by a car when walking and three back surgeries later she is bent over in the middle and uses a walker.  She lives alone and I know that she gets lonely, unable to get around.  Her friend and her parrot are gone now.  Well, it seemed like a sign from God.  This parrot of ours would be a good match for Roxanne and she would be more attentive than I could be.  When Wally called to give her the parrot she was overcome with joy.  On their first meeting they took to each other like dear friends and she named him Wally.   I will enjoy seeing Wally the parrot when we deliver eggs each week to Roxanne.  And if she is not able to take care of him in the future he will come back to me, hopefully a reformed man-hater. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursday lunch special - everybody is lunch!

If you sit still for a little while you will be surprised at what you will see.  We sat down together to rest on the veranda.  We turned our chairs to face the kitchen rather than the ocean.  We were watching the parrot climb up and down the door frame.  He maneuvers very well using his beak as another appendage.  He's smart and daring too.  As we watched, two geckos in a death grip grabbed our attention.  One of them had the other by the neck and I could see blood.  As they wrestled they fell from the top of the wall in a free fall and landed on the same wall several feet below.  Now, how did they do that?  They were flying through space - how could they grab onto the vertical plane from which they were loosed?  As we discussed the physics of that feat a large head appeared at the top of the wall.  We were not the only ones watching.  There was a large and ugly iguana with an upper body shaped like a moray eel.  We watched him take in the whole scene: the geckos, the parrot and us.  He was watching us and we were watching him.  He had been planning to settle the gecko dispute by democratically eating them both but then no one expected that free fall.  The iguana moved across the beams of the kitchen roof.  We could hear him and occasionally we could see him.  Then we noticed that there was another creature in on this event -  a gorgeous, sleek, electric-green iguana.  She was on the farthest end of the wall.  What we began to realize was she was Plan B for the moray-eel-head-iguana, but she sensed danger and dove out the back way.  Now that the big iguana was some distance from the geckos they made their move.  One was bloody and the parrot had his eye on him, and the other slipped quickly under the freezer.  What a drama!  We witnessed a showdown, an acrobatic miracle, a prowling bully and a beauty in fear of her life.  It's hard to get any rest for all the stimulation!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another Day

After the first two days of rain it stopped.  This is the way it usually goes.  Kind of like a lawn mower that's been sitting all winter: takes a few pulls to get it started.  Anyway, I've had time to catch up on some household chores.  Put up some more hat hooks in the bathroom and installed a piece of glass in place of a screen that got knocked out by the critters when they got excited.  It was  the lower part of a screened in area of our bedroom.  We can still see out but there'll be less work fixing screens. 
I'm in the midst of a 3 year plan to automate and simplify things around here so it's not so labor intensive.  It's labor intensive becoming less labor intensive. 
Amaranths water pick quit working.  The hose got brittle and snapped.  I replaced it with some 1/4 inch drip system hose.  Gave it a bit more life.  I already have plans for it when the pump quits working. 
As I was walking past my Buddha Hands tree I noticed it was covered with small white granules.  It looked like someone had sprinkled it with laundry detergent.  It turned out to be eggs of some sort.  I've never seen anything like it before.  Must be some specialized Buddha Hands Bugs.  None of the other citrus were affected.  I got a squirt bottle with some watered down dish washing soap in it and sprayed the bottoms and tops of all the leaves.  When I checked it this afternoon it looked fine.  Most of the eggs had fallen off and the remaining ones were easy to remove. 
The chickens are doing fine.  Haven't had any predators get in the pens since I fixed the wire.  We'll be having a bunch of new babies from three nests in a week or so.   Our nests all end up being communal.  You'll see 2 or 3 hens all squished into the same box.  There are plenty of nesting boxes but they like getting together.  The goose and the duck had that going on.  The goose layed  3 eggs but something got all   all of them.  When I checked her nest to see how her eggs were doing I discovered no goose eggs and 10 duck eggs she'd snitched from the duck.  There's no male duck so her eggs weren't fertile.
Well, that's about it for now.  Things are pretty layed  back for a while.  See you tomorrow.  Wally

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Problems of paradise

One of the events of the rainy season is the flying termites.  When the rains come the crowded nests get stirred up and some of the termites get wings and take off by the millions.  What you have is a big mess because they die by the millions too and do you know what you get when you have millions of dead and dying termites?   -  a gazillion wings in every nook and crook and cranny, on every surface flat and vertical.  If you try to sweep them up the wings take flight again without the termite attached.  Once I dumped a dustpan of wings over the edge of my veranda and they floated up and across the veranda again!  The ants come in for the bodies of the termites so they get swept up too. This is a unique housekeeping problem during the rains.  I won't take a photo of this phenomena as it isn't a pretty picture.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Variety as spice...

I've been glad to have Amaranth take care of the blogging for the past few days.  I got too hot when I was burying the lines for the pump and I haven't had a lot of energy.

One nice benefit from having the extra pump is we have twice the water pressure we had before so the tank is filling faster which means we can water the plants more thoroughly.  It's tough at the end of the dry season.  I start to get a little burnt out on watering.  Much of the watering is done by timers at night so we can spread out the usage over 24 hours instead of having to do it all during the day.  It is better to water at night because the plants process water at night with less evaporation for chlorophyll-making during the day.

This morning I repaired a watering system for trees below the chicken pen.  I had them all nicely mulched but the chickens removed it scratching for bugs.  Just as I finished our friend, Tom, who gave us the parrot, stopped by to see how the parrot was doing.  He was surprised that the parrot was liking life in the cage and had adopted Amaranth.  Chico doesn't like men.   My sore finger can testify to that.

At noon, friends, Kate and Greg, stopped by for lunch and brought lots of bakery goodies as a tribute for the repairs I did for them.  After lunch I worked on a pressure washer Tom had dropped off. It had been sitting for quite a while and the carburetor was plugged.  I took the carb apart, cleaned it and reinstalled it.  It started on the second pull.  I also fixed the all-important pressure relief valve.  It opens up with the build up of too much pressure.  If it doesn't open you're in for big trouble.  Something pops or blows.  The problem was someone had taken it apart and reassembled it in the wrong order.  I'd never worked on one like this but I'm good at puzzles.  I reassembled it in the sequence that made sense. It worked.  In troubleshooting, I usually study it to find the logic that went into it's design.  When I understand that the solution is clear.  Works for me.

After I got the pressure washer working I decided to give it a test drive on the bricks in front of the cono.  In no time they looked clean and new.  They tend to build up a coating of moss which can be very slippery when wet.  Just one more thing ready for before the rain begins.  The rain began on June 18th last year.  I know were getting close to the 18th, although I never am sure what day or date it is.  I usually get the year right around May or June, although not always.

After I pressure washed I finished up with some watering of trees.  We have one called "Hands of Buddha."  It's a citrus and the fruit looks like a couple of hands praying.  It's supposed to be delicious and we watch each day as it's first fruits ripen.  This year many trees will be fruiting for the first time.  Two Kumquat trees are full of fruit too.  We also have a Blue Banana from Brazil that's nearing readiness.  These bananas taste like vanilla ice cream when frozen.  We also have red bananas and some other variety I'm not sure of.  There are so many delicious varieties of bananas that you will never see in a market in the U.S.  We've been tagging the plants recently because we have too many to remember their names.  I've been planting for years and usually I just plant things and forget their names.  I got it because I liked it so when it flowers or fruits I'll be happy.  No name necessary.  Many of our tropical fruits are named differently in other countries which adds to confusion too.   I learned from local folks how to crush the leaves and smelling them to identify some trees, especially citrus.  They can tell the difference between a grapefruit and a lime or an orange just by the smell of their leaves.  Cinnamon leaves smell wonderful and make a great spicy tea.  Their bark is the source of ground and stick cinnamon.

When I first came here there were loofah vines growing.  Loofahs are those sponge like things you use to scrub up with in the shower.  They grow like cucumbers on a vine and when dried the skeleton is used as a scrubber.  I hadn't seen any in years.  I'm not sure why.  I got to thinking about it and asked around.  A month back my neighbor located a vine and brought me seeds which I planted.  I planted the vine at the base of a tree for support.  It's vigorous and happy.  Maybe that's why people got rid of it.  How many loofahs can you use?  We'll give them as gifts with some of Amaranth's home made soap.  You can eat loofahs when they're green like a cucumber.  Scrub a dub on the inside and the outside.

I planted Valerian seeds someone asked me to start for them.   You can make a calming tea from the roots and that's where Valium originated.   We also use passion flower leaves for a sleep aid.

The water tank is 5 inches from full and will fill tonight.  I rest peacefully when the water situation is under control.  It takes vigilance.  We never take water for granted.  Eventually we'd like to drill a well.  We had tests done and there is good clean water from 26 to 50 meters.  The problem is finding a company who can install the well correctly.  We had a friend who payed 26,000 dollars for his well.  It wasn't sealed right and it keeps filling with mud during the rains.  It costs him 1000 dollars to have someone clean it on a regular basis.  We've checked out other companies but haven't found one we have confidence in.  I may end up doing that myself too.

Well, it's 10:06 PM and I'm missing out on some good dreams.  Bye for now.  Wally

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Our new family member is becoming more relaxed and open to explore.  We were told that he has lived in freedom, feeding himself and living outdoors, but he doesn't fly. We put him in a large cage for the first day and then let him out during the day to explore the kitchen and veranda.  He seems to be very happy.  He likes to be wherever I am and if he hears me and I'm not in sight he gives a high scream.  He also does this when I'm on the phone.  For having been independent he seems to prefer company and attention.  He is wild though.  He bit Wally hard when he reached towards him with a perch.  Since he doesn't fly he gets around climbing with his beak to pull him up.  In addition to his scream for attention, his repertoire also includes "Paco" with his voice raising on the second syllable in a coarse and irritated manner.  Guess Paco was in trouble a lot. He also says "huevon" which means lazy - I can see a story shaping.  Another expression sounds a bit like a curse, so our new colorful member will be undergoing some reformation.  Yesterday he was drawn to the classical music playing on the XM radio.  I moved a chair in front of the radio and used it as a perch.  He sat there and made sweet little murmurs nodding to the music.  He can make some lovely purring sounds when he is content.  We are still waiting for a name to come to us, a name that will match his personality, which he reveals more each day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fresh flower jewels...

I had a very happy surprise on Sunday.  Wally gave me a pair of earrings he designed and had a jeweler make.  Each earring is an attractive clip fashioned from sterling wire that is meant to hold a natural flower.   What could be a finer adornment?  I wore plumeria and mandevilla yesterday and they smelled better than any perfume.  I think habanero peppers would look snappy too.  Today I am wearing lacy hibiscus.  The earrings are lovely without the flowers too as the clip is cleverly disguised in the wire design.  How precious to have Wally surprise me with such loving thought and invention and how flattering that he imagined my face framed by flowers.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tick talk

Usually we take it easy on Sundays.  Amaranth goes to the children's mass in San Blas and I go to a nice restaurant that is peaceful and a good place to drop off into a meditative state.  We did those things this morning and then I went to work.
It's the dry season so we have to watch our water levels in the water storage tank under the house.  We use the water for household things and also to water the plants.  This time of the year it's not uncommon to go 3 or 4 days without any water coming into the tank.  We monitor the water levels every day with a dip stick I made up that is marked off in inches.  Yesterday we'd dropped off to less than a third of a tank.  I didn't sleep well last night 'cause my mind was in high gear chasing the elusive solution to our problem.  This morning in my restaurant/church I came up with a solution.  I'd install another pump further down the line to give us more pressure.  I picked up the necessary connectors at the hardware store and went to work.  Connecting the new pump was easy -  the hard part was burying the electric line.   I had to dig a trench over 150 feet long.  It took me 5 hours working non-stop with a small trenching tool.  The devilish part was I had to do it sitting and crawling through a thick tangle of jungle and underbrush that was crawling, and I mean crawling with big ticks and little ticks in all sizes and varieties.  Before starting the work I had wrapped duct tape around the bottoms of my pant legs and the cuffs of my shirt sleeves.  Even with that barrier they found their way through.  I passed through communities, maybe even cities of them and they'd be crawling everywhere.  They let me know when they found some skin and I'd stop to remove them before they dug in. Digging the trench was exhausting but I wanted to get it done cause there was no way I was going back for a second day of tick tag.  I hooked up the pump and literally crawled back up the hill.  I stopped 4 or 5 times, too tired to go on.  When I got up to the house I flipped the breaker to turn on the pumps and headed for the house to get out of my clothes and get at the ticks I could feel crawling on my  back.

As I headed toward the front of the house I became aware of people talking.  A friend, Tom, had stopped by with his wife and kids.  He had a parrot that he wanted to give us.  It  was green and red with a yellow head.  Tom let it run around free at his place but it had been getting into the neighbors fruit trees and eating the fruit, so in order to avoid a war the parrot was relocated to our parrot paradise.  Tom told us the parrot couldn't fly but was adept at climbing.  He also told us not to worry if our dogs would get along with it.  The parrot has a beak, dogs don't.  We're going to keep the parrot on the veranda so we can introduce it to the dogs with some control.
We fed the parrot a banana, plums, bok choy, homemade bread and a small piece of ham.  He loved it all.  He also loves Amaranth.  When she speaks to him in her musical way he arcs out his tail feathers and puffs up.  If he had his way she'd be sitting on eggs tomorrow. Right now his name is Chico but we want to come up with our own name for him.  We'll know when it comes to us.

Oh yes, for those of you still creeped out by the ticks crawling on me, I did slip out to take a shower while the introduction to the parrot was going on.  I found a few more ticks and Amaranth found the rest.  A good way to catch the little ones that are too small to see:  tape.  The tape picks them up and no more tick.  Of course even after you get them all you still feel those ghost ticks crawling around.  Usually nothing more than a good case of prickly heat from working in your tick suit all day.

Tomorrow I'm off to fix a friend's wheel chairs.  One has faulty brakes and the other has a broken arm rest.  I'll fix them and enjoy a good conversation as payment.

OK, another successful blog.  I was in bed and oh so comfortable when I remembered my commitment to you out there.  My bones were creaking like a model-A ford as I made my way to the computer.  Once I got started it was easy.  I really like writing and each day is so full.  It's easy to get a back log of stories to tell and they're never fresher than at the end of another satisfying day.  See you tomorrow.  Love Wally

By the way I checked and we have a full stream of water pouring into the tank.  Gracias a Dios.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Today we harvested ginger planted over a year ago from some bought in a market in Tepic.  It's not common to find it in Mexico.  We enjoyed the plants for it's handsome foliage.  Eventually I cut the foliage back and it was dormant for about 6 months.  A month or so ago I noticed some of the roots were exposed and I started watering them again,  We now have new shoots which will make more roots to harvest later.  Amaranth likes to use ginger in her cooking and for making tea.  She plans to preserve some by candying it.  Whatever it is we like we try to grow it.  We like going to larger markets to look for things we can use for starts or seeds.

We also harvested a large pomegranate and the first of our kumquats.  We've been planting trees over the past 6 years which are bearing fruit now.  It usually takes 2 or 3 years for fruit to appear, normally the first harvest is small with the amount  increasing every year after until around the 5th year when you have a good harvest.  Around here the top soil isn't too deep so the trees spend their first few years producing roots and then foliage.  When they have enough foliage to shade the ground around them the roots stay cooler and the ground doesn't dry out so fast.  It also helps keep the weeds down.

I spent the afternoon fixing things for a neighbor.  There was a boom box that needed a cord and repairs on the volume switch.  Once I opened it there were a few more things that needed tweaking. It was made from plastic which becomes brittle with time.  There was also a bamboo lamp that needed a new cord an socket.  I'm  replacing part of the bamboo stem with our bamboo.  We grow several types of bamboo.  My favorite is yellow with green stripes.  Bamboo is great for building projects around the farm.

The tinkering section of my brain thrives on problem-solving and there's no lack of stimulus here.  I like digging through my cache for just the right something that will work as a part.  I salvage as many pieces as possible when I run into something that is truly shot.  It's satisfying to find the right piece and make something like new, in some cases, better. 

I've got a Kitchen Aid blender that some one gave us that cost over $100.00.  The impeller on top of the motor that drives the blades was made out of a rubber that had become soft with age - so soft you could roll it up into a ball.  I looked on the internet and there were hundreds of complaints to the company.  The company's position was the impellers were breaking down with misuse and they didn't acknowledge a problem with the material.  Their solution:  replacement impellers in 12-packs.  My solution:  make a mold from a new impeller out of J B Weld epoxy.  No more replacement impellers.

We have a weed eater-type mower made up of 4 or 5 different mowers.  The part that spins on the ground kept wearing out because it was made of plastic so I had a friend make one out of stainless steel.  A perfect solution, its a solid piece so it'll last for many years.

A problem I've run into with the mower motors is that they quit making them after 5 years.  They change everything just a little bit on the new models so you can't use the new stuff to fix up your old stuff.  I'm looking on the internet for someplace where some old-timers have figured a way around this problem.  Never give up.

Amaranth asked me the other day if I was an old-timer...

I'm enjoying blogging.  Usually, after a shower I'd lay down with the intent of writing in a bit, but that doesn't work cause I'm just too comfortable.  Now I do my writing after a nice hot shower and then I hit the hay.  Seems to be working.  Amaranth and I have challenged each other to write a little each day.  Not so hard once you sit down to do it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Somos hormigas!

We attended our neighbor's birthday celebration yesterday afternoon.  Julio Cesar turned 12.  Fun was had by all.  I laughed so much my head was aching.  Wally is the big hit.  All the children adore him.  He got us all laughing by saying "somos hormigas!"  which means we are ants instead of we're friends.  He has a talent for misconstruing words in a witty way and then they are unforgettable whether in English or Spanish.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wally the Rambler

What does it take to house and protect our chickens living on the edge of a jungle?  A lot of sewing!

Farming is all about giving yourself over to serving members of the plant and animal kingdoms.  In turn they feed us, love us, entertain us and teach us all about life and living.   Our days here on the farm are never boring and at the end of each day we feel fulfilled and satisfied.  Each day is different from the one just past.  There a lot of chores that have to be done daily like feeding the creatures and watering the plants. Mixed in with these chores are lots of interesting projects and things to challenge your mind.  Sometimes nature pops up with a surprise like a storm or a hungry critter hoping for a chicken dinner and we set aside the other projects till we've come up with a solution. 

Today, I worked on stitching together lengths of fine mesh chicken wire to keep the iguanas out of the area where the baby chickens are.  There was already a larger mesh wire but the iguanas were able to squirm through.  We lost one little baby but there are still 4 more and more on the way.  Chickens are food to lots of other animals.  We understand that but at the same time we love our chickens and do our best to help them live a long happy life.  We don't eat our chickens.  We coexist with them and share.  We feed them good food and give them lovely housing and they give us eggs and allow us to hang around and experience their unique world.  It's a fair trade and never gets old.

Another project I'm working on is converting a 1995 Land Rover out of it's computerized zombiehood to a genuine, old fashioned car with lots of user-serviceable parts.  I got the car for free cause it was not running and was going to cost a fortune to repair.  I got rid of the computerized fuel injection system and installed a carburetor.  I also adapted a Chevrolet distributor to replace the hard-to-find parts for a Land Rover one.  After I got it running the brakes quit.  I needed a new master cylinder:  $675.00 from Land Rover in Tucson, Arizona.  I replaced it with an 81 Dodge master cylinder and power booster that I adapted.   Cost for the 81 Dodge master cylinder:  $21.00.  Much better and easy to find replacements down here in Mexico.  I also got rid of the computerized brake system (anti-lock).  We won't be going over 35 mph.  I also replaced the electric window switches that needed a $350.00 control unit with some switches off my 1990 mini van.  We're out in the country here and we have to be able to keep our things running.  We do just fine. 

Among our other vehicles are a 1979 Porsche 924 that has 1990 Suzuki sidekick (4x4) running gear.  I bought the Suzuki wrecked and found the Porsche body in a field.  I bought the Suzuki for $500 and the Porsche body for $100.  I also have a 1990 Plymouth mini van with a 1990 Toyota 4x4 truck running gear.  Recycling at its best.  I also have an electric wheel barrow I made out of 2 salvaged wheel chairs.  This is one wheelbarrow you can ride.  I have a wonderfully messy shop to support all my daydreams. 

One of my favorite fixer upper projects is Moochie.  He was definitely in need of repair when we got him but he's turned into a magnificent little boy.  When the vet gave us his prognosis we decided  to try for a different outcome.  We came up with our own regimen of physical therapy and nutrition and look at the results.  Moochie has no memory of anything but a sweet life surrounded by us and 3 brothers and 3 sisters.    It's amazing how similar he is to a human child.  He likes to spread his toys all over the yard and he's joyously curious about everything.  I watched him chasing a butterfly the other day.  Something good happens when we stop to watch him or when we lay down on the grass and tussle with him for a while.  You just have to smile.

Bigger, Better Moochie

Isn't he a beautiful boy?  And smart too!  Our Moochie Carlson is a perfect example of what can happen when you decide to make the world a better place one positive act after another.  Scroll down to see what he looked like when Wally first rescued him.  He had a broken leg healed poorly and crippled.  His leg straightened as he continued to grow with good grubs.  And look Ma, no more mange. He is our joy!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

From Refuse to Reuse

Don't believe what they say about newer being better.  My home is equipped with appliances that are repaired and refurbished to be better than the original.  When I was a new bride Wally told me not to throw away things that didn't work anymore.  An enthusiastic consumer, I never gave a thought to repair, always replacing the broken and shabby with new.  Wally forever changed me.  Now I am the beneficiary of the old, familiar appliances repaired, cleaned, and painted in great, new colors.  Not only do I get to hang on to my old friends like my 12 year old depilatator, but also my dad's rice cooker, bought when he and my mom divorced over 35 years ago.  Not only does it work and look great, it reminds me how even my dad was irrevocably Japanized.  These things are priceless.  Wally has reclaimed many things from being tossed in some landfill.  I have a crisp celery-green and white crockery slow cooker to complement the rice cooker and a chic pink Kenmore blender with a powerful motor of metal parts, no plastic gears; all one-of-a-kind and lovingly reconstructed to make my life easier.  I have a great affection for these machines.  They are memorials of the past that also speak of the love that surrounds me today.  In an age of entropy, where even nature seems to be losing, I have a hero in the quiet, patient, steadfastness of Wally's creative impulse.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rose apples

Meet the rose apple: a delicious, lightly sweet, crisp fruit the size of a plum with the taste and perfume of a rose. 

Around the tropical world, rose apples are mostly eaten out-of-hand by children. They are seldom marketed.
Wally planted two trees a few years ago and now we are enjoying their white, cheerleader pom-pom flowers,  and their rosey-scented fruit.  Wally made a long pole with a hook on the end for picking the ripe fruit.  The rose apples are sturdy enough to survive the fall to the ground.  Rarely does one make the bucket.  They are consumed as quick as we pick them.  They are so light and tasty that you feel good even after eating your fill of them. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Meet Moochie the Poochie

Meet the newest member of our family -  Moochie Carlson. 

I met him while leaving a restaurant in San Blas.  As I was getting into my car I heard something crying and looked up to see a tiny little black and tan dog limping my way from under the car in front of me. He had patches of hair missing, a badly broken leg and was hungry and very thirsty.  He looked up at me begging me to show him some mercy.  He became our dog as soon as our eyes met.  We already have 6 dogs so it's not an easy decision to add another.

The next day we took Moochie on a 2 hour drive to the vet in Tepic.  He checked  Moochie's leg and said it had been broken for a while and was already healed in place (about a 45 degree angle from straight).  I asked if he could re-break the leg and straighten it.  He said there was the possibility of nerve damage if he did.  He told us Moochie would adapt to walking on three legs and be just fine.  He gave him a worm shot and some shampoo for the skin problems.

Back home the other dogs weren't happy about the newest member of the pack.   They weren't really sure what it was.  The females nipped at him and let him know he wasn't needed or welcome.  The other dogs did their best to avoid him.  Moochie adapted right away and made himself at home.  He was oblivious of the other dogs' unwelcoming signals.   He was perpetually friendly and energetic.  Teething puppies bite everything.  Eventually Penny, our fluffy-not fat-chow-pitbull mix adopted him and became Moochie's own personal Beenie Baby.  Penny has rolls of fat in all the right places so Moochie can chew on her with out causing her a lot of discomfort.  She chews back in a very gentle way.

After a few baths Moochie's skin problems cleared up and now he has a beautiful, shiny, black coat.   We put him on a diet of hamburger, yogurt and fresh eggs with dry dog food when ever he wants it.

In the beginning Moochie had an darling little bark which sounded like: "Maf-maf."   It's becoming more adult-sounding.  He's changing before our eyes as babies do.  He delights us with his antics and we have taken lots of pictures to remember his puppy days.  He's already reached the big boy stage where he avoids mushy stuff like hugs and kisses.  You've got to get them while you can and he puts up with us.  

Moochie follows us everywhere:  up the stairs, down the stairs, all over the farm.  Along the way, a nice little miracle happened.  His leg became straight and there is no trace of the break.  He's perfect.

We're not sure what Moochie's lineage is. He's husky like a Rottweiler, but not quite a Rottweiler, so we've decided he's a Ratweiler, a breed of his own.

Where did we get the name Moochie?  It's a variation of "muchisimas!" And he is!



Friday, January 1, 2010

Hope in the new year...

New Year's greetings from Slow Living Farm in Mexico! 

We hope all our friends and family had a joyous Christmas. 

Ours was a strange mix of joy and sorrow.  We invited a young woman from Czechoslovakia and her two children to take refuge on the farm until she could find work and childcare.  In the course of her living here we helped to care for her children while she worked for the gringos who live in the area.  We thought things were going well except that she never had money and her children weren't well cared for.  After a frighteningly sudden and violent sickness we discovered that she was an addict when we took her for emergency care.  We set down some rules in order for her to continue living with us and in the end she vanished with her children on Christmas eve.  All of her things are still here and we have not heard where she is.   Because we love them, we keep hope as our focus rather than fearing the worse for them.

We don't always get the "good" part in helping others and we never like it when we have to be the heavy, but one of the things we are learning is not to interrupt the lessons life is teaching.  By interrupt, I mean not rush in to "fix" things. The sooner we learn the better for everyone and no one is without effect on others.  During this difficult situation, we met many loving people who wanted to help, some of them as poor as the little family.  There is a strong unity on the side of good that is a marvel to witness.  That's a good thing to report in these times.

Despite the bombardment of bad news blaring from our satellite radio, where as Thomas Merton puts it:  "each day's disaster is the greatest announcement replacing the noise that went before it and yielding to the noise that comes after it so that eventually everything blends into the same monotonous and meaningless rumor", we deliberately resist the drone and actively hope for better things for ourselves and the world, and we notice that when we do everything moves in tandem as we exercise our hope.

Our farm is living proof.  Each year things get more beautiful, more productive, richer in every way.  Wally has expanded our collection of exotic tropical fruit trees further and everything is thriving.  Last year was a great year for mangos and soon our new mangosteen trees will produce their first fruits.  We continue to have volunteers from around the world.  Wally has refined his systems so that things run smoothly and efficiently.  We find there's not so much need for volunteers so after February it will be just the two of us.  We hope the change will leave us more time for personal projects.
We are hoping that 2010 will be all you hope it to be.  The psalmist says, "Constant has been my hope in you,"  Constant.  Hope in God and in goodness and be at peace ..constantly.

Wally & Amaranth