Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Sunday, March 25, 2012
I liked last month's Newsletter format so much ~ and received so much great feedback for it ~ that I thought it was time for another one. I also uploaded last month's newsletter to this blog, which follows this one on the page, in case you didn't catch it. I am still fiddling with my Flickr account, so I'm waiting before I take on the laborious task of uploading all the accompanying photos (which I know is so much of the fun).
photos: kale seedlings emerge in the Kitchen Mandala Garden
Anjali and Mamaw play under the palapa
peas in the Shower Garden
nubs of arugula munched in a single sitting by a nighttime animal in the same garden
grain-free coconut-egg muffins baked in a dutch oven on the stove!
stunning African tulip tree at Buena Fortuna
Troy sanding the kitchen sink counter
Anjali and Mommy in the sea
Papa and the bamboo awaiting transplant in Neptuna Fuega
As I type, I sit under a palm frond palapa-roofed patio at an internet cafe a short bike ride from Lumbini Gardens. A rooster just crowed across the way, a cardinal perches on the palo verde tree directly in my view, and I hear the sound of water splashing as la señora of the cafe waters the tidy row of flowers and succulents that line the fence. Vultures soar beneath a deep blue sky with sparse clouds and the horizon is lined with mountains.
I have been astonished at my lack of connection to the internet, and even more, my lack of interest. But as I take in the surroundings here even at the internet cafe where I expected to get down to business, I understand. Life post-plugged is muy buena! But I do really appreciate the nudges I get from a few sweet souls goading me into at least a tiny update. With pictures.
Since last I wrote in late February, we have had the blessing of visiting with many family members for a long time. Troy's parents ~ Papa and Mamaw, my mom ~ Nanna, are spending all of March and into April at a beach house close by. Troy's sister, Cathy, and her husband, Dwayne, stayed for a week a nearby Hotel Buena Vista. As is usual with our visits, there has been a lot of productivity, a little relaxing, a little touristing, and a lot of good eating. One day during the week with Aunt Cathy and Uncle Dwayne the Pope family (minus Mommy and Anjali) went on a fishing excursion where they caught over sixty pounds of yellowtail snapper! Another day the group of us took a whale watching tour out of Cabo San Lucas on a large ferry boat where we got to coo and oo and ahh over several sightings of mama and baby whales very close to the boat. Anjali gobbled up the "girl time" with Aunt Cathy ~ fixing hair, matching outfits and admiring jewelry, and singing rhymes from Aunt Cathy's elementary school days.
Our sunny month of visiting was punctuated with a dark cloud, however, when Nanna got the phone call that her mom, my Granny, had passed away. Pauline York was an energetic woman overflowing with creativity and bustling with hobbies at an age when many of her peers had inhabited a rocking chair for years. Late in her life she took up new activities such as painting and sewing projects, met often with friends, and still had a keen eye for detail and sharp mind for bookkeeping. She will be missed by a whole community.
At Lumbini Gardens, growth and change are still the name of the game, although more detail-oriented since our initial dramatic push. We got our first bamboo planted, which is a monumental beginning to our very necessary windbreak. Tadeo, a young strong-backed man who is working for us regularly, has been busy digging many more large holes which we plan to fill with mulch and organic matter (in keeping with permaculture) and at some point plant a tree. In line right now: avocados, mango, fig, and date palms! Troy and his dad, Wayne, just completed building a counter in the kitchen that houses two sinks ~ a stainless steel two-sided kitchen sink, and then a deep utility sink, complete with tidy pipes that drain the gray water to the garden or can be diverted to fill buckets to water other trees. Wayne has also graciously been trouble-shooting our electricity so that the fridge doesn't groan when the toaster oven toasts. ;-) After the driver's side tire tread ripped off and caused a flat, we have experienced continued troubles with the truck, Neptuna Fuega. Hopefully today's trip to the Llantera will have her running reliably again.
The gardens are growing! In the main Kitchen Mandala Garden, we have seen with our own eyes the difference that mulch makes in water-retention for the tiny seedlings! And now we are attempting to find that sweet balance between not-enough water, and soggy beds. There the onions are shooting up, tomatoes, broccoli, beets carrots and radishes, herbs and flowers, and all manner of greens are growing noticeably by the day in the increasingly intense sun. In what we now call the Shower Garden ~ peas, greens, tomatoes, and flowers are booming! And we are being visited by (I think) two kinds of visitors: one who digs at the damp soil (damaging plants), and one who prunes and trims the plants. ;-) We are now enjoying daily beautiful salads picked from our own gardens that include mizuna, arugula, different lettuces, flower petals and herbs. Delightful!
Nanna plants beets in the Kitchen Mandala Garden
While we adjust as a family to the loss of Rodolfo-cat, Kitty is blossoming into a desert huntress! She seems to be flourishing in the intense Baja sun and open air. Amazingly, even after living twelve years as an indoor housecat, she has remembered her instincts and gotten reacquainted with her hunting skills. Since living at Lumbini, she has successfully killed at least five animals! Two mice, a decent-sized bird, a small bat (regretfully), and most recently a chunky adult rat! I can see the electricity in her eye and spring in her step in the day following a kill! She is invigorated! Because of this, we have christened her with a new name: Kitty Leona! Though I am not at all thrilled at seeing the tiny animals go down, I am thrilled for Kitty that she has the opportunity to live this part of her carnivore nature. Kitty roars!
Kitty Leona in the onion patch
We are gaining a daily rhythm for our meals as the weather heats up with the season. Breakfast recently has been egg dishes and a big salad fresh from the gardens with fixings such as freshly-chopped salsa, of-the moment dressing, and whatever kraut we have on hand. The contemplative ritual of harvesting the greens for the morning salad is one I savor! Lunch is oftentimes the main meal these days, usually including fish or meat either at a restaurant, or home with more salad (I can't get enough salad!). Dinner at home is a small bowl of soup using homemade broth.
In the kitchen I have been making a lot of broth. I felt humbled and reverent using the remains of the yellowtail caught by Troy and family to make a *huge* pot of the most gelatinous broth I can remember. Homemade bone broth is literally the backbone of my cooking, so seeing the thickness of that broth, I couldn't help but take a picture! The flavor of it is just as dense ~ more like fish sauce, so finding an audience for the soups I'm making with it is proving a challenge. ;-) The kraut crocks are also bubbling happily in the kitchen. Right now in the "kraut corner" I have a half-gallon of cabbage kraut going, brined whole tiny carrots, and two gallons of beet kvass. My favorite recipe lately has been a cabbage kraut that I mixed with the remains of a fresh salsa ~ fresh red and yellow tomatoes, garlic, lime juice and sea salt. Perfect with everything! I was also pleased to make two sweet dishes that Anjali couldn't get enough of (the most important and hardest to please of my audience!) ~ a macaroon-granola type thing made with toasted coconut, flax and sesame seeds, chopped sprouted almonds, with cinnamon, vanilla and honey, set in the fridge with coconut oil. I also had a successful first attempt at ice milk using the delicious milk leftover from our weekly order from Whitt's End goat rancho. I made two flavors ~ maple-vanilla, and carob-cacao. Without using an ice cream maker, I set two metal camping plates full of the milk mixture in the freezer and stirred them diligently every 15 minutes for a couple hours. They turned out so well! Anjali was not the only one who went back for more. :-)
dense fish broth
kraut dedicated to my Granny
Speaking of Anjali ~ if you know her at all, you can imagine she is devouring the time spent with so many loved ones! She bounces out of bed every morning with anticipation of playing with her favorite people and meeting new friends. She loves going to the San Jose Organic Farmers' Market ~ which she calls the "grass farmers' market" because of its nice tree-surrounded field ~ for all the friendly people she encounters there. We are discovering friends at every turn; and recently have had the opportunity for play-dates ~ both with native Spanish speakers and English speakers. It makes this mama's heart swell to hear her pull out all the words she knows to attempt to play en espanol! She is living the cliche of small children soaking up languages; she really *gets* it at this point, and is remembering more and more words everyday ~ from parts of the body to conversation, eating utensils and beyond. Anjali gets a rush out of walking up to a server at a restaurant and asking for something like a glass with ice, the check, or "sal, por favor?" She outdid herself this past week, however, when ~ solely of her own accord ~ she became the youngest person to perform at the Los Barriles Roadrunner Cafe's weekly Open Mic Night. With me crouched quietly nearby to remind her of the words, she performed an a cappella rendition of Oh, Susanna ("Oh, I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee..."). She was instantly hooked, and wanted to sing another song as soon as she left the stage. Next time, I think we'll actually practice beforehand. ;-)
So lucky we are to be situated across the street from Buena Fortuna. We value intertwining our daily lives and the business of growing plants with theirs. Walking the dirt paths there with bare feet I can't help but feel a bit more connected with my hunting and gathering ancestors ~ browsing leaves of lettuce and grazing on fragrant flowers at every jungly turn. Yesterday we took a Saturday Garden Tour with the encyclopedic Gabriel himself as our guide, which included handmade tea, treats and a beautiful and huge fresh-from-the-garden meal at the end.
I have coined a half-joke that concludes that the more Americans you gather together in Mexico, the busier your schedule and the less you function on "Mexico Time." It seems we have been running around a lot and keeping very busy. But that also must mean that "Mexico Time" is sinking deeply into my bones (I think my tortoise self was born on Mexico Time ~ heehee), as work days still end well before sunset, and every week includes several visits to the beach. The dance of Jupiter and Venus, the approach of Mars, and the cycle of the Moon through the month are our friends by now. We are coming to recognize the morning song of cardinal and quail, as well as the nighttime serenade of owl. We go to bed tired and dirt- or sea-salt covered. Life ~ if not slow, is at least much slower, and we are loving it.
Happy Spring, my friends and loved ones! I wish for you that you too are doing something you love, with someone you love, everyday. <3
action shot of Anjali squarely landing a jump off the compost bucket!
Thursday, March 1, 2012
I wrote this as a newsletter to family and friends. I haven't figured out how this blog will manifest itself exactly; for now I think the newsletter will do nicely.
Photos to come soon.
February 29, 2012Hello, mi familia y amigos buenos ~
We celebrated our one month anniversary of living at Lumbini Gardens on February 12th, and have had our noses busily in the dirt ever since! At times that, in the past, I would have been on the computer, I have been feverishly book-studying! ~ how to communicate effectively en espanol(!), and how to begin to grow food through permaculture (hopefully successfully!). It has also been surprisingly strange to compose offline and wait for an internet connection to send a message; the only way I have known since I became an addicted internet-user has always been through wireless. So anyway! Here I am, and I hope our napping girl had a strenuous enough day that she'll afford me some easy naptime writing!
Well, this turned into quite the letter as Anjali has, I believe, called naptime "bedtime". I hope those of you who aren't family (or close friends considered family) don't mind that I included you; I've been mighty remiss in letter-writing of late ~ and I promise I won't make a regular newsletter one more piece to sort through in your inbox; I'll try to keep it to a blog. (Those of you who fall into the "family or close friends" category ~ you have no choice. ;-) ).
Troy is in Oregon for his first stint of work since we moved here. I hope all goes smoothly for him at work, and that he survives Winter Oregon to make it back to southern Baja! ;-) This morning Anjali and I had the exciting event of a dead battery on our truck that I drive (which we named Neptuno Fuego! kinda like, "firey Neptune") that I successfully jumped with the (gimpy; sorry Miles ;-) ) LandCruiser while Troy talked me through it over the phone! So I feel like I have been initiated into Solo Lumbini-Mexico living and am glad and proud for it. And in just a couple days, Troy's parents and my mom will be coming to stay for a whole month! So that will be exciting for us all. Anjali has been counting the days, and keeps talking about all the fun we'll get to have with them here. :-) Troy's sis and brother-in-law, too, and then a whole string of delightful friends, old and new, along the way! Though we moved seemingly to the tippy-bottom of the world, being by ourselves was far from the reason why. ;-)
Our one-month anniversary found us solidly in utilities ~ running water both agricultural and municipal, hot water for showers (!!!!), electricity, and a composting system for our humanure (poopoo). All this, along with the addition of the second set of decks under the palapa roof that have become the kitchen and dining room/study. Much thanks to Josh and Tiff and Stella, Felipe, and local twenty-something strong-backed men such as Tadeo, Antonio and Jesus, for their help on these monumental tasks! On Valentine's Day we amorously (haha) christened the composter, which Troy named the Caca Casita ("caca" is the Spanish equivalent for "poopoo" ~ teehee!), with a month's worth of solid waste ~ both from the kitchen and "beyond the kitchen" ~ that we had been collecting in five-gallon buckets. Believe it or not, the only bucket that was gross was actually the kitchen scraps that had been moldering and fermenting for the whole month; because of the humanure system we are using ~ layering plentiful sawdust (donated from a local carpenter) on top of every "deposit", those buckets honestly smelled simply fresh and earthy, and looked like moist sawdust. (I know you don't believe me, but it's true! ;-) ). We are now layering our kitchen scraps with sawdust, too!
As soon as we got all the "have-to's" out of the way, we casually mentioned to our plant "guru", Gabriel, that we would start preparing our kitchen garden bed for planting, and wanted to consult with him about what seeds and transplants we could plant. That's when he told us that we had ... a little over a week to get all these things in the ground before it was too late in the season to plant!(!!)! Down here, the sun gets intense and hot so soon, that folks start planting for the next year in NOVEMBER. And Gabriel marks his birthday (this past Sunday) as the last safe day to plant most everything for THE WHOLE YEAR! Well, only having been hobby gardeners in the past ~ and in Kentucky, Sacramento and Berkeley, for that matter ~ we took his word as gold and ... got to work! We used a design plan from the main permaculture book that we have studied, Introduction to Permaculture, by Bill Mollison, as our guide. We drew it all out, outlined it with sawdust, dug a meter-deep hole in the center for compost and then dug for and ran a gray-water pipe to it. Then we collected mature compost from Buena Fortuna and a generous acquaintance in town. This meant wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of shoveled compost into and then out of our trailer. And then spreading it all out into the garden. I am quite satisfied and proud to say that I did a lot of this shoveling and digging (a new favorite contemplative pastime: digging dirt!). But you know how Troy is: he can run circles around me in the strength and energy departments and manages to slip in an hour of work before I can turn my head! He is so sneaky that way! And incredibly hard-working and motivated. YAY, TROY!!! So then after all the digging and carting and spreading, came the planting. I consulted with Gabriel and we got a large and beautiful assortment of vibrant seeds and seedlings from him that were ready to plant. I planted them all within a matter of 36 hours or so, with a few stragglers here and there a day or so later. So then we were BOTH exhausted! I wasn't sure if I ever wanted to look at that garden bed again after that! We managed to take a little celebratory getaway right before Troy needed to pack to fly up to Oregon. We spent the night at Cabo Pulmo, the national park that is just south of us on the ocean ~ a very special place for me and Troy since it was the first place that we took a vacation together ~ almost seven years ago! ~ and when we first fell in love with this little area of Baja Sur Mexico. :-) Simply an overnighter, it really recharged us.
When we returned, seeds in the garden were already sprouting!
We have been finding social life in abundance ~ through the rotating cast of interns/volunteer-laborers at Buena Fortuna organic botanical garden which is right across the street, through the frequent festive parties that the proprietor there, Gabriel Howearth, hosts, through shiny happy people at the San Jose Organic Farmers' Market (my new favorite event) and Raices y Brazos, in Los Barriles at events like Open Mic Night and La Ribera's own Valentine's Day Fiesta and Dance (adorable!), through people who seemingly randomly strike up a conversation with us and end up being permaculture enthusiasts, and of course, the folks who are attracted to Anjali's radiant energy. Just today we got an invitation to another birthday party ~ this time from a family who have been semi-permanently living in Los Barriles in an RV and have a turning-one-year-old boy and 4 year-old girl who instantly took a liking to Anjali. Local Mexicans we come in contact with are so gracious and generous, such as the family who have been caretaking Lumbini Gardens for many years ~ the senora Chayo and family, and neighbors Martina y Sylvestre, that we are beside ourselves with humility attempting to communicate our gratitude.
Other enriching life that we've been enjoying immensely is communing with the Nature that surrounds us here at Lumbini Gardens. The palapa where we live is literally surrounded on three sides with... essentially, desert forest. It gets a lot of wildlife traffic. Quail, doves, vultures, birds of prey I don't yet know the names, hummingbirds and all kinds of tiny chirpy birds, owls, and even a couple of white cranes, desert rabbits, lizards, insects, many foxes, and roaming pairs of domestic dogs, manage to incorporate our living area into their habitat. We brought a "wildlife cam" down ~ a kind of camera that takes a photo based on motion-detection (even at night with very minimal light), and have been posting it at different spots of interest hoping to catch a glimpse of our wild and mostly invisible neighbors (for instance ~ who has "pruned" every single beautiful pea vine from the shower structure? Who left these curious berry-filled droppings in the path several nights in a row?). The most success we have had has been in catching (in photo) the visitor who cracked an egg open on the kitchen counter and managed to make off with (get ready) a GLASS PINT JAR full of ghee (clarified butter)! This fox had been clanging pots and knocking things over for nights. Then we left for the night at Cabo Pulmo and that's when the egg and ghee business happened. And that's when we posted the camera in the kitchen...And that's when Mama learned to stash the supplies much tighter overnight! I have done this successfully enough that the little guy's hourly visits were pared down to a single visit last night. It rests my mind to know that the clanging in the kitchen isn't some 5-eyed, spiny, half-lizard-half-lion, but instead an adorable and wily fox the size of Kitty. But it also rests my mind to know that my kitchen tidying has deterred his interest. ;-) As fascinating as the wildlife, we have basked in becoming intimately familiar with the night sky; Papi Troy (the avid astronomer) had a tickled-proud moment when he overheard Anjali volunteer the correct answer to a random stranger the other night who wondered aloud, "Is that a planet or a star...?" Anjali replied confidently, "It's Jupiter!" Gazing at the moon in each of its phases, and not merely getting a glimpse of it as we crank through a busy city evening, learning where the planets are situating themselves this season, getting to know the sun as our timepiece and true dictator of worktime ~ all of these have been deeply satisfying.
Anjali has taken to her new home as she has all the other ones she has settled into during her three-plus years: with grace and ease. Her favorite activities still involve as many other people as possible. She especially loves visiting at Buena Fortuna and has made tight buddies with the young woman interning there for months, named Heather. They roam around the gardens together barefoot, singing songs and nibbling aloe blossoms. She enjoys going to the beach. And ~ surprise surprise ~ she loves the playground. She loves tortilla chips and quesadillas and fish (which of course are in plentiful supply locally). Her favorite sweet discovery (and mine!) is the Chocolate Sapote ~ a fruit that reminds me of a round, green avocado from the outside, with seeds like a persimmon. And has a deep brown interior that really tastes and feels like rich chocolate pudding! She has had many a happy "chocolate sapote beard" after devouring one! Living essentially out in the open air all the time, however, Anjali needs to hold a hand if she goes anywhere around our palapa at night. I have shown her the photos of the fox and told her that it is about the size of Kitty and very wary of humans, but she insists that these things are out to get her (and not our eggs and ghee)! ;-)
Speaking of living in the open air, we have learned to "batten down the hatches" on windy days. We hang sturdy Mexican blankets draped in front of the shelves to keep all our belongings from getting tossed off and to keep the dust somewhat to a minimum. Those are the days we wish for a.. movie theater or someplace to retreat. But luckily the jungle that is Buena Fortuna is a short bike ride away and harbors us from the wind welcomingly. Those tree and bamboo windbreaks really do work! The days are noticeably getting warmer, though, and the windy days are fewer. Today was a windy one, however, and Anjali and I headed to Los Barriles for some errands and a meal. That town is world-renowned for its kiteboarding and windsurfing. As we crested the hill to head into town, we saw probably close to 50 rainbow-colored kites and windsurf sails buzzing across the glistening aqua-and-turquoise-colored waves down below!
Our quality of living has grown by leaps and bounds as we have discovered the organic farmers' markets that happen weekly in different towns within an hour's drive. We have found a steady source of DELICIOUS raw goats' milk (and got to visit the farm, where the goats live in a posh, fastidiously clean setup), yogurt and cheese, organic eggs and meat chickens, as well as their organs and feet ~ which I make into yummy pate' and incredibly thick broths every week, all the fresh local produce we could desire. On top of that, delicious treats of prepared foods like raw almond butter, herbed olive oil, tamales and empanadas, wholesome sourdough breads and cookies. If you know our family at all, you know that good food is at the center of our life and especially enjoyment thereof! Even though we hope to grow and raise a large part of our own food here, we're not doing it yet! ;-D So having some high-quality delicious supplies has really turned our "surviving" into "thriving". I can't forget to mention the generosity of our neighbors at Buena Fortuna with offers of whatever they have on hand, and any meal we happen to be around for. Basketfuls of citrus, passionfruits and perfectly ripe chocolate sapotes, and the most flavorful and diverse salad greens a food-lover could imagine. We are well fed.
I must wrap this letter up, however, with a deeply sad note. I feel a knot in my throat as I type it.
Rodolfo, our lovable gray-n-white kittycat since 1999 has wandered off into the great catnip patch in the sky, we do believe. As soon as he got to Lumbini, he was a (neutered) tomcat possessed! He couldn't stop roaming and searching and investigating. He had always been a mainly-indoor cat, and ... the excitement of so many scents, tracks, and noises were just more than he could bare! After several nights prowling, he finally spent a few hours with us in the tent as we slept. That was the first night we hadn't been jerked awake by his yowling, growling, or pestering Kitty in the middle of the night (and her subsequent yowling). I thought he had finally gotten enough and was ready to rest [as Kitty had. She hasn't left my nighttime pillow for a moment since.] Then sometime in the wee hours I guess, he was back at it. Never to return. We kept hopeful vigil for him for many nights, holding in our hearts the story of his "cousin" Pedro ~ Tiff, Josh, and Stella's cat ~ who went on Walkabout and returned after 3 whole weeks! But that time has passed. I looked out into the night with the idea of him in my heart about a week ago, and a calm voice that sounded like his told me that he had passed, and that I needn't worry about him. :-( Rodolfo (full name: Rodolfo de Fencerow) was such a laid-back kitty. He simply loved a sunny spot to lounge. When he was a wee tiny kitten he came to me and Josh, meowing and meowing with all his might, emaciated and barely alive. We're pretty sure his mom was killed by a dog the week before, and he managed to get himself found in the nick of time. As a little tyke, he loved to play "fetch" with little things like bottle caps and rubber bands, and we called him a soccer player. Later in his life he grew quite friendly after being shy in his younger days. Whenever he could catch your attention, he'd kinda fall over amiably on his side to ask for a rub. He went crazy for catnip, and loved cheese and yogurt. He had a tiny little meow which we could hear at nights as he would "prowl" around the house. And the only animal who need fear him were moths. He was gently playful. And very very soft, like a rabbit. From the time they were young cats who must be indoors, I promised these two furry friends of mine that I'd get them into the country and out on the open land at some point. I am bittersweetly glad I was able to deliver, with that tang that regretful foolishness leaves in the back of the throat through "20-20 hindsight." I honestly don't think the "Lil' Dude" held it against me. Rodolfo soaked up every moment of life with a relaxed zeal that anyone would do well aspiring to. Happy Trails, Dolfo! We will always love you dearly!
Please feel free to forward this on to anyone who has been interested in what we've been up to. I'm thinking this might just become a blog entry soon.
With much love!