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.