Friday, June 17, 2011

midnight rambler

It's election time again in Mexico, lots of loudspeakers blaring all the good reasons to vote for one candidate or the other.  One of the candidates for governor had a pretty nice pitch.  He offered a free outdoor movie with equally free popcorn and soft drinks.  I'd vote for him if I could.

We're busy getting ready for the rainy season.  Tomorrow we'll peel 7 years of plasticized roof coating off the cono and see what kind of a creative solution we can come up with.  I'm picking up Raul from San Blas at 9.  He's a wizard at sealing things up.  He has these wonderful mixes of white cement, sealer, ground marble and eye of newt.  It works.

It's been the usual balancing act with water.  Things get hot and dry just before the rain and it's a full time job keeping all the plants watered up.  Just got to get them to the rainy season.  Everyone is predicting around the 25th.  There are some whistling bugs that always start up just before the rain and they're whistling away.  Another good sign is the return of the lightening bugs.  I don't know where they go but they're faithful to show up every year.  I imagine they are calling to me to keep on just a little bit longer.

I've been working on the chicken houses.  Got lots of new Costa Rican babies and we have to house them somewhere safe until they're big enough to fend for themselves.  They're tasty little snacks for lots of night creatures.   One momma wants to perch outside on a branch with her 7 babies packed together under her wings.  I want her and the babies to sleep in the safe house I just built them.  At first I tried rounding them up while it was still light enough to see them.  It was pure comedy.   I'd get a few in the house and before I got back with more they had popped the door opened and escaped.  I'd eventually get them but what a job.  One night I got back after dark and went out to put them to bed.  They were perched on a branch under mom.  I had my 52-LED headlamp on and they calmly sat there as I scooped a handful of momma and four babies.  Nothing to it.  I put them to bed and went back for the other 3 who waited patiently for me.  It's as easy as picking mangoes.  They don't struggle at all.  I can see how the possums have an easy time of picking them off.

Next week Moochie Poochie is going in to have his pride and joys removed.  Our females are neutered but the vets left the ovaries so they still come in heat.  Big problem.  Coming down the stairs the other evening, Moochie and Winky got into it.  Fur was flying.  Amaranth was in the middle of it and got bit by one or both of her beloved babies when she tried to break it up.  I showed up with a big voice and everyone went to their corners.  Amaranth is a little sore but alright and the doggies are properly chaste.

We've had a bumper crop of lychees this year.  Imagine being able to eat all you want freshly picked drom the tree.  For those of you who don't know lychees, they're a tropical fruit the size of a small hens egg.  You peel off the bumpy, bright red shell and inside it's like a peeled grape with a seed in the middle.  You can't stop eating them.  Luckily we have 5 trees to keep us supplied.

Well, it's a couple minutes before midnight.  Better hit the hay.  5 o'clock comes soon enough.

Friday, April 22, 2011

This evening's pickings...

Sweet & succulent homegrown tomatoes… I like eating them right off the vine.  It's been a long, cool growing season since we planted vegetables last November and nary a bug or drop of rain. There are different challenges growing organically in the tropics.  Each year we refine what vegetable varieties will work and what is too fussy.  Okra and jamaica and hibiscus are in the same family of plants.  They thrive in the semi-tropics with little care.  The lettuces are going to seed as the weather warms up, but what was planted last is growing in the shade and we'll have another two or three weeks of salads.  After that we'll be getting our greens from sprouts and from our third crop of green beans. As it gets hotter we eat more fruits. Our first mangoes of the year should be ripe in a week. 

That's not all we harvested today.  Wally picked 3 large Jack Fruit and a ream of blue bananas.  You won't find blue bananas in your grocery store.  They are our favorites.  The flesh is nearly white and they have a creamy texture and tangy-sweet flavor.  They are blue-green before they ripen to yellow.

And each day as I wander around the place I can't resist picking a flower or a leaf, a bud or seedpod.  I bring them in where we can enjoy their art-fullness.  I made a shallow elongated vase for holding my little pickings.  It's place on the counter makes us pause, look closer and take in the pleasure of being here. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The season of palms...

One of my favorite Mexican traditions is the celebration of Palm Sunday.  Each year San Blas artisans weave a variety of Christian symbols woven from palm fronds and grasses and sell them in front of the church. Some of the weavings are embellished with glitter and plastic flowers, or sprays of chamomile and rosemary. Beyond the bling the weavings are delicate and beautiful.  People gather to have their palms blessed by the priest's holy water and make a procession into the church singing: "Bendito el que viene en nombre del Senior. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna!"  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord...

I've been collecting this woven art-of-palms for years. I have some that are 6 years old. They start off green in color and smell and age into a pale gold. I display them against the wall above our bed as an altar to joy and art.  As they collect dust I take them outside and give them a good wave, cleaning them in the wind, mind-full of the cycle of time when they were part of a living palm tree, cut for a short celebration of hosannas and now in my hand, on my wall, a lasting memorial.

I am easily transported into the story described in Matthew of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on an ass, for I live in a land of palm trees and donkeys and sun-baked folks praying for some relief, longing for an extra-ordinary meaning to life.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Today I heard an interview with a man from Japan who had been trapped in his car by the tsunami.  He nearly died.  As the interview went on I learned that he'd lost everything.   There were no details about what "everything" was but I think it may well have been every thing he owned.  The interviewer asked him how he was doing and he replied, "I'm alive."

I've been alive long enough to have experienced a good many of the wide variety of things that a person can experience.  I've had my own tsunami-like experiences.  When I was in the midst of them I felt like my life might end and in some cases I wished it would end, but time passed and so did the unpleasantness.  Soon I found something to make me grateful to be alive again.  Here on the farm we have a whole universe of experience.  At the end of each day we are glad to have been alive to have experienced them.  Each day is a gift.  There may be tsunamis waiting around the corner for each of us but just focus on the day you've been gifted with and be glad you had a day to live through.

What touched me so much about the man being interviewed was that he was grateful to be alive and was wise enough to know that "alive"  has all sorts of possibilities.  After you've survived enough "tsunamis" you come to realize that "this too shall pass," and more of life awaits on the other side.

It was wonderful to hear about how people were opening their homes to strangers who had lost their homes. In the midst of something horrific many great acts of compassion sprang forth.  There will be many heartwarming acts of kindness to accompany the tragic events as they pass into the realm of memory.  The goodness will soften the sadness, people will rebuild their lives and move on.

Today we had a good day.  We accomplished a lot of the tasks that were in front of us in the morning and settled in for the evening with a good deal of satisfaction.  I have no idea what tomorrow may bring but today was a day well-lived and I'm glad to be alive.    

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Elves and Owls and other things

During the day we share our farm with familiar creatures but when night falls the cast of characters change.  I was putting the chickens to bed for the night when my headlamp picked up a flurry of activity.  A small bird had gotten into one of the pens and was in a frenzy to get out.  It finally came to rest on the wire and I could see it was a very small owl, about 6 inches tall.  I hurried back into the house, grabbed my camera and a towel.  I took a few pictures of this amazing bird and then, slowly, folded the towel around it to protect myself and it from harm.  I snapped a picture of it in the towel and then took it out of the pen and released it.  It flew away without a sound.  Another night as I was walking down to turn off the water, I saw in the reflection of my headlamp thousands of tiny lights shining across the landscape like a mystical city.  At first I thought they were dew drops but on closer inspection I found that they were the reflections of the eyes of tiny black spiders.  I got down on my hands and knees and looked at them.  They were very shy and popped back in their holes when I got too close.  They were about a quarter the size of a house fly.  I know some people are creeped out by spiders but these seemed magical.  For the most part they are invisible and never bother us.  I'm sure they're doing some monumental good deed, perhaps eating mites or some other creatures that do harm to the plants we tend during the day.  Their part is to tend to our plants during the night while we sleep.  They are our little spider elves.  Sometimes in the morning we see signs of other things that passed in the night.  I'm sure we'd be amazed at the activity that goes on while we sleep.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines grow anywhere...

Heart-shaped leaves are everywhere on our farm.  It always amazes me how many plants have leaves in this shape:   large and small, new-green, or purple, veins like the palm of a hand, some carrying flowers and some with roots like feet that scoot across the rocky terrain.  Hearts take root and abound in unexpected places like on the front seat of our farm truck, the grill too.  Hearts tender, resilient, persistent in their journey, moving with  mysterious purpose.  It seems like God strains nature and language to send us a valentine: HEY, I'M LOVING YOU.