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!