Old MacDonald’s Farm

All of a sudden we have so many animals that I feel more like the Old Woman in the Shoe than Old MacDonald. And the thing is, we did some drastic reduction in December, so theoretically we should have less animals, not more.

shadow

Shadow at nearly 2 years

Joey at 7 months

Joey at 7 months

Old MacDonald had some horses

Although we exchanged Beauty for the wood to put on the roof (See Up On the Roof that Almost Wasn’t), we still have Shadow and Joey, two of Beauty’s babies (See Beauty’s Babies). Shadow will be two years old this summer and has begun her heat cycles. We are not interested in breeding her yet. The thing is that Joey, as young as he is, gets all bothersome during these heat cycles. As both horses are housed together, this is a wee bit of a problem. I keep after my husband to put the wall he has had planned for ever so long up, but it hasn’t happened yet.

plowing with Fiona

Old MacDonald had a donkey

We still have ol’ Fiona, although my husband threatens to sell her every few weeks. I argue against it. For one, she does all the plowing at present as the horses are not yet trained. Secondly, when we go on our family horse trips, I ride Fiona, disregarding the opinions of onlookers. She is a dainty walker, not a roller coaster ride like Beauty was, and so much closer to the ground. I am also campaigning for her to have a stall, at least during the rainy season. She so hates to get wet. That too is on my husband’s list of projects. (See Donkey races in La Yacata)

Mischief makers

Mischief makers

Old MacDonald had some goats

We sold several goats in December to finish paying for the roof. But lo and behold in February, our remaining goats multiplied. (See Birth and Death) In a little over a week, our herd went from 8 chivas (nanny goats) and one chivo (macho goat) to 20. Well, it is the Year of the Goat according to the Chinese calender, so I guess we should have seen it coming. (See Goat Genetics)

Jill has the dark face and Mary is the white sheep in front.

Jill has the dark face and Mary is the white sheep in front.

Old MacDonald had some some sheep

Even though Flaca and Panzas kicked the bucket (See Birth and Death) we still had little Jack. He refused to associate himself with any of the kids, although he had many to choose from. We thought it best to get him a little companion, as sheep are never solitary creatures. So now, Jack and Jill frolic merrily up the feed trough. (See Separating the sheep and the goats)  And Mary, whose fleece is white as snow, is right behind them.

Multi-racial chickens

Multi-racial chickens, Jack and Brownie

Old MacDonald had some chickens

We have had chickens since the beginning and I’m ok with that as long as they stay out of my garden. There are periods that we have more than one rooster and the morning ode to dawn is a little more than I can bear. Then I start in on how we don’t want a palenque (a fighting rooster ranch) and it’s time for chicken soup. (See Why did the chicken cross the road) The number of our hens vary and as my husband is all about bulkos (speckled) he likes to try for genetic variety in our flock. Just this week, we discovered we have a culeca (broody) hen and that means peeps before too long!

Meet the Turkeys!

Meet the Turkeys!

Old MacDonald had some turkeys

One day out in the field that we share-crop, my husband found a turkey–just out of the blue. He snuck up on it and pounced. With a wing clip, Mr. Turkey joined our barnyard critters. He didn’t much like the kids at first and kept pecking at them. We were concerned he might peck out an eye. I think he thought of them as interlopers. He eventually stopped when the sheer number of kids overwhelmed him.

We then found him a Mrs. Turkey and the newly wedded pair couldn’t be happier. Both are a little young for egg production, but we have hopes. The funny thing is the coloring. Mr. Turkey is bluish and Mrs. Turkey is pinkish–talk about gender coding!

Kinda looks like Thumper!

Kinda looks like Thumper!

Old MacDonald had some rabbits

We’ve kept rabbits before and always found them light maintenance and fairly profitable. (See Waskely Wabbits) So when my husband was offered four adult females for $100 pesos, he jumped at the offer. They are currently free-range rabbits, which means my backyard garden is on hold. I’m thinking I may have to do a container garden on the roof as rabbits just won’t be contained.

AWW!

AWW!

Old MacDonald had some cats

We’ve had at least one cat since moving to Mexico. We even brought our cat with us from the U.S. However, our neighbors have caused the premature deaths of many of our cats with random distribution of rat poison. (See 101 Perritos)

Licorice, aka Lickie, has had 3 litters, but this is the first time any of the kittens have survived.  This time she presented us with three little kittens, Lickie 2, Devil 2 (who looks like our adopted rescue kitten Devil) and Sancha.  There’s a joke here.  To be “el hijo de Sancho” means the child is the result of someone other than the husband.  Lickie 2 looks like her mom.  Devil 2 looks like Devil.  But Sancha, well, she looked like the neighbor’s tom cat.  We put Sancha up for adoption, so that cut the engorda de gatos (cat fattening business) down to 4.

My husband, who isn’t a big fan of cats generally has changed his opinion. Our cats are excellent mousers. As we have quite a bit of dried food to make it through until the rainy season for all of our grazers, there are mice. The cats have been doing a bang up job of keeping the rodent population to a minimum. I’m a little concerned about the rabbits though. Baby bunnies look an awfully lot like baby mice after all.

Chokis and Fiona

Chokis and Fiona

Old MacDonald had a dog and Chokis was his name-O

We’ve had a number of puppies and dogs in residence during our 9 years in Mexico. (See 101 Perritos) Our current canine pal is Chokis. My husband has moved him outside the gated community of animals, but he is as faithful as…well a dog. He sleeps next to Fiona right in front of the house and is so pleased to see us pull up on the moto that he pees himself. Talk about puppy love! He does a great job of letting us know when someone passes (as does Fiona).

How now brown cow--uh--bull?

How now brown cow–uh–bull?

Old MacDonald had a cow

My husband has had a bee in his bonnet for about a year wanting a becerro (cow). I have been opposed to this idea just because we honestly don’t have room. The spacing challenge didn’t dismay him in the least. Finally, he broke down and bought his brother’s year old bull for 3 goats and $3000 pesos. He presented it to me as a rescue mission. He bought the bovine because B didn’t take proper care of him. It’s itty bitty living space was knee deep in mud and poop. Well, the deal was already done, whether or not I approved and so now we have a cow, or rather a bull. The plan is to engordar (fatten) him up and sell him full grown for meat. We tend to get extremely attached to our animals so we will see if that happens or not. Let’s call him Toro.

If you are thinking that this doesn’t seem like many animals for a farm, remember our entire property measures 14 meters x 20 meters, with almost half of that being our house. The multitude does provide plenty of home-grown fun though. Take a look at some of the chivitos (goats) playing ring around the rosy with Jack.  However, I’m not sure that Jack likes it all that much.

E-I-E-I-O

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Failing at your own business–Freelance Test Writing

So the second online writing employment that I managed to snag was nothing like the disaster of Freelance Writing Essays. This job although based in China, just like the Essay Writing job, was run by an Irishman and I think that made all the difference. My assignment was to write articles for a TOEFL preparation course. Again, since I have quite a bit of experience working with English as a Second Language learners, I felt fully confident that I could handle this job.

The first requirement was to send a list of possible article topics for approval. I remembered the admonition, “write what you know”, so choose Mexican-related topics. My list was:

Monarch Butterfly Migration

Women in the Mexican Revolution

Environmental law in Mexico

NAFTA

Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System

Volcanism of Mexico

Merida Initiative

Yo Soy 132 social movement

The Irishman, my primary contact, approved the first 6 topics and asked for more information on the last two. I explained a little further, but admitted that perhaps the Merida Initiative and Yo Soy 132 were too recent of topics to be included in collection of articles. And sure enough, The Irishman replied with “I’d be fascinated to read about contemporary Mexico; sadly we can’t allow contemporary social issues at all. For history and related topics, anything that might be controversial or too anachronistic, I’ve decided the most recent that we can go is the fifties, maybe sixties. The historical material tends to focus on subjects well out of the range of the majority of living persons, both to provide a challenge from unfamiliar information and to avoid controversy.”

The monarch butterfly migrates annually to central Mexico.

The monarch butterfly migrates annually to central Mexico.

Well, that’s ok, I had plenty to work with here. I wrote up an article on the Monarch Butterfly Migration and sent it out. The Irishman made some minor revisions and explained how the article should be formatted and named. I revised a little more and sent it back. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account. I was a happy camper and immediately started in on the second topic.

Women were cooks, laundresses, nurses, soldiers, spies, and smugglers during the Mexican Revolution.

Women were cooks, laundresses, nurses, soldiers, spies, and smugglers during the Mexican Revolution.

I’ve done research before on Women in the Mexican Revolution (See Stories of the Revolution–Marcelina) and so was gung-ho about writing this one. I tried to be a little too creative and set it up as if it were an excerpt from a longer text. I also tried to rush the article and forgot to include my sources at the end. So the Irishman, out of concern that I had plagiarized the article, asked for some revisions and clarifications. I wrote back assuring him that the article was my own and that I had purposely written it in that manner and apologized for leaving off the sources. I made some adjustments, rewrote the beginning and ending paragraphs, added my sources and sent it again. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

popo

I skipped down the topics list and spent the next week working on Volcanoes in Mexico. I sent the Irishman an email mid-week. “I have been working on the volcano topic and was wondering if I should include images, if not in the text then for the questions. The volcano topic would lend itself nicely to that sort of question.” To which he replied “Your suggestion is well meant but it makes me a bit worried; before you go on with this writing work you need to be aware that we are trying to emulate the tests that we’re targeting with as much authenticity as possible. We’re trying to get everyone to write in accordance with really precise criteria and alas, things that I might like or you might wish to include have to be discarded if they don’t resemble the tests. It’s not always an interesting process… though one does get to research and read about a nice and wide eclectic set of topics. So, no, no images.”

Okie dokie. No images. I wrote it up and sent it along. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account. No revisions were necessary. The Irishman even sent me a rhyme that he remembered when he acted in the university as a mouth-warming exercise “Popocatepetl, Copper Plated Kettle.” I believe he was pleased with the article.

The reef system is home to more than 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of mollusk and more than 500 species of fish.

The reef system is home to more than 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of mollusk and more than 500 species of fish.

I decided to finish off the natural topics before I moved on to politics and researched and wrote an article on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. While doing the research on this topic, I ran into article after article about the preservation problems in Mexico. I bookmarked these articles for future use in Environmental Law in Mexico. I sent my article in. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

The North American Free Trade Agreement has proven to be detrimental to Mexico.

The North American Free Trade Agreement has proven to be detrimental to Mexico.

I set to work on NAFTA. The Irishman seemed especially keen that I focus this one on the trade in South and Central America with North America with “plenty of detail on development over time and effect on Central American society.” Well, this one was a doozy. I had some vague ideas, mostly from seeing how the movement of factory jobs from the U.S. to Mexico effected U.S. small towns, but hadn’t ever really examined the effect of those factories on Mexico. Again, I discovered issues with contamination and other environmental catastrophes that I bookmarked for the Environmental Law in Mexico article. This article took me more than a week to complete, but complete it I did. I thought perhaps I was dancing on thin ice with the inclusion of the Zapatista movement since that might be considered “anachronistic” but on Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

Activists of the environmental organization Greenpeace paddle their KAYAKS in front of Juanacatlan Falls in Mexico, one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country.

Activists of the environmental organization Greenpeace paddle their KAYAKS in front of Juanacatlan Falls in Mexico, one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country.

By far, the most complex piece was the article on Environmental Law in Mexico. I found, much to my surprise, that Mexico does indeed have excellent laws specifically geared for environmental preservation. The problem is the enforcement of those laws. Let me tell you, I was way over my head with this one. I wrote and rewrote and wrote again. I thought that perhaps again I was on the line about the time frame since I included situations that continued up to the 1990s in the article, but on Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

However, now I had exhausted my topics list. So I sent a new one. And the Irishman responded “Amazing work. I’m totally humbled by how much condensed reading you put into that last one. It’s clear that you want to pursue things related to Mexico. The interest and dedication that you have is a credit to us. That said, the highly contemporary nature of the trade-agreement pieces puts them just a little bit at odds with the precedent given by the available body of previous pieces. Therefore I’d love it if you could direct your energy at exploring older portions of the country’s history; I hope that’s okay. Therefore of the topics below I think the architecture and the handicrafts might be the best direction to take, assuming you can bring the same expertise as you did with these latter economic/political ones.”

The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in Teotihuacan and one of the largest in Mesoamerica.

The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in Teotihuacan and one of the largest in Mesoamerica.

Well, I guess those last two were a little too recent after all, but he liked them. I assured him that I would be more than happy to work on more historical pieces. I decided to go as far back as I could with Mexican history and researched Mayan hieroglyphics. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account. Then I wrote about Mesoamerican Architecture, focusing on the ancient pyramids of Mexico. And on Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account. And my final article was about The Florentine Codex written in the 16th century. On Tuesday morning, $30 was deposited into my Paypal account.

Sadly, the company that the Irishman worked for decided it had received enough submissions and my job ended the first week of February. It was fun while it lasted though!


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Birth and Death

kids

February brought new babies to our goat herd. (See Goat genetics) We started with the birth of Brownie (girl, little ears, campanitas (bells)), to Shortie. The next day Moya gave birth to Peanut Butter (boy, pinto, no campanitas, little ears.) Then Caramela gave birth to Pumpkin( boy, little ears, no campanitas.) The fourth day had Vaca producing twin girls (little ears, campanitas and pintas.) We haven’t come up with good names for them yet, we’ve been toying with Cookie and Galleta, or maybe Bessie and Bertha, but it remains to be seen. Then the fifth day, Short Ears, our oldest goat at 4 years, also presented us with twins, a boy and a girl, (little ears, all-white, the girl has campanitas, the boy doesn’t.) We’ve named them Sugar and Salt. Queenie also presented us with early morning twin boys (short ears, campanitas) tentatively named Chocolate and Vanilla.  That leaves Venada waited nearly a week before delivering twin boys.  I guess she wanted them to make an entrance.  One is brown, the other white, both with little ears and campanitas.  And much to our astonishment, Princess is also pregnant, although less than a year old.  We aren’t expecting her to deliver for a few more weeks though.

kid

Short ears has never had any sort of problem giving birth up until now. She varies the number of babies she has. The last birth gave us Princess,(pinta, short ears, campanitas.) The time before, she gave us twins, Duke and Duchess (white, no campanitas). This time, at first, she seemed to be just fine. We arrived home right after her second baby had been born. She had already expelled the tripa, (placenta) from the first baby and was in the process of cleaning baby 2. As she had a boy/girl set, there were 2 placentas, unlike Vaca, whose girls arrived in the same bag. This second afterbirth took its sweet time in detaching. The next morning, there was still a sizable section attached. So my husband had me consult the “book”. Otherwise known as Keeping Livestock Healthy: A Comprehensive Veterinary Guide to Preventing and Identifying Disease in Horses, Cattle, Swine, Goats & Sheep, 4th Edition

goat kid

What I found in my research was that she had a retained placenta. Typically the placenta is expelled 30 minutes to 12 hours after the birth, but, that if it hasn’t, you should by no means pull at it as that might cause internal bleeding and death. Okie, dokie. So we decided to wait it out. As long as there was no infection, there should be no problem. We separated Short ears and babies from the other new mamas and mamas-to-be so that she could rest and eat at her leisure. She seemed listless and tired, which again was not normal for her. Additionally, her stomach remained inchada (swollen) and we wondered if perhaps there was a third baby as yet unborn. My husband treated her to a corn handful, which she ate up with gusto, and some plants that he remembered might help in expelling the afterbirth. (Emergency Procedures First Aid and Nursing Care for Goats)

Much to our horror, although Short Ears had successfully expelled the second placenta, the next morning found us with a dead sheep. I haven’t mentioned the sheep in recent blog posts because we’ve only had them a month. They were the last bit of the deal made for Beauty. (See The Roof that Almost Wasn’t). Flaca la borrega (Skinny) had just given birth to Jack when they arrived. She was so weak that she couldn’t stand to eat. We were concerned that she might not recover. However, it wasn’t Flaca that had died, but Panzas (big belly).

Jack

The second female and heavily pregnant sheep we named Panzas because of her girth. Since the moment we got her, she was a bleater. She bleated when we arrived, she bleated when we left, she bleated when she caught sight of us in the window, she bleated when she didn’t. We often remarked that we wished we understood sheep because she was obviously trying to tell us something. We hadn’t noticed much of a difference the day before, what with our focus being on Short Ears. However, in the afternoon, my son and I had remarked that she was breathing like she’d been running. The week prior, due to births and imminent births, we hadn’t taken the goats or sheep out of the pens, but kept them in feed. In the morning, we had brought back a special treat, a bag of orange rinds from a juice vendor, and distributed it among the ladies. We were completely clueless as to what might have caused her sudden death.

My husband had me consult the book again, but I didn’t have enough information to determine the cause of death. Our concern was that it might be something contagious and we would loose our precious newborns. We estimated she had died in the very early morning. My husband found her around 5 am. We decided that just maybe we could save the baby. I convinced my husband to take the body out of the pen before he cut it open just in case there was something contagious involved. So he hauled her bloated corpse out and cut her open. The baby had already died. Since she was already opened, he performed an autopsy. In her stomach, he found a 6 inch long rope, the kind that is often used to tie up pacas (hay bales). So with this, we think the cause of death was bloat.

I believe that the previous owner knew that she had eaten the rope and did not tell us. My husband believes everyone is his friend and that “he wouldn’t do that.” We know she did not ingest the rope while she was in our care. The alfalfa bales that we buy are bound in wire. Furthermore, my husband is meticulous in checking the food for bits of debris. When he dumped the orange bits into the trough that morning, he removed every little bit of plastic and paper napkin.

Panzas’ progressing pregnancy also masked a swollen stomach symptom and put more pressure on the stomach, which is probably what she had been trying to say with all her bleating. The hard breathing was also a symptom of the impending death that we overlooked as it could have also been pregnancy induced. (Bloat in sheep and goats: Causes,prevention and treatment)

As we didn’t know she had eaten a foreign substance, we didn’t even know what to look for or where to look for it. We feel bad that she died under our care, but I personally feel angry about the previous owner’s negligence. We knew that he did not care for his animals with the same compassion that we do, which is why Flaca arrived in such a state. And now he is the new owner of Beauty, whose condition has deteriorated to such a state that she is unrecognizable. We have some vague thoughts of buying her back. My husband’s done that before, sold her and bought her back. I guess we shall see what happens.

But then, Flaca died the following afternoon. She had a rectal prolapse like what happened when we had the piggies staying with us who ate chicken intestines. (See Miss Piggy didn’t bring home the bacon). My husband tried various things when she noticed she wasn’t up and ‘attem, even went to the vet to see if there was something more to be done. The vet said that the oranges were what did it, however we asked around to other borrega (sheep) owners and they said no. We have given oranges to them before with no ill effects. I checked the books, there wasn’t anything listed about oranges. I went to the internet and found that no, oranges were ok for sheep. Effects of feeding ensiled sliced oranges to lactating dairy sheep Australian oranges being fed to the sheep Citrus pulp, fresh Citrus Pulp in Formulated Diest

So then we thought maybe the oranges we got were bad, but no, none of the goats got sick, besides Short Ears who was already sick prior to the orange snack. And we had fed them oranges before, ruling out bloat caused by sudden change in diet. Rectal Prolapse in Sheep Rectal prolapse

We continued our collection of information in the days following the sudden deaths.  My father-in-law told us that a sheep can be “deflated” in the event of bloat with a knife hole to the back stomach, right at the hip-bone juncture.  He’s convinced the oranges were too warm and caused the bloat.  Another borrega owner told us that giving the sheep beer will force it to burp and take care of the problem.  So armed with new knowledge, we blunder on.  We knew that sheep were more troublesome to care for from previous experience (See Separating the sheep and the goats), but we’ve never had any livestock die on us, except of course the rabbits, duck and chickens that were killed by various dogs (See 101 Perritos)

So this has left poor Jack an orphan. We hope that he’ll find a buddy in the myriad of new kids on the block, but so far he bleats for his mommy and we are helpless to comfort him.

Jack, Flaca and Panzas

Jack, Flaca and Panzas

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A Day in the Life in La Yacata

Welcome to the March 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Day in the Life This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have given us a special glimpse into their everyday. *** Our life has a regular rhythm that often depends on the seasons or current employment status. In the rainy season, our life revolved around planting, while in the dry season it centers around the harvest. The employment status of my husband, myself and 12 year old son, also varies. When there is work available, we work, when there isn’t, well, we make do.

Sunday afternoon

Sunday afternoon

Sunday activities are the most consistent year-round and little affected by our work schedules. I often get asked about what we do living off-grid in the middle of nowhere in central Mexico. I have to say, there is never a dull moment around here! We get up with the sun on Sunday morning and have our coffee. Right now, we have a plethora of little chivitos (kids) that are enjoying our organic raw goat’s milk so we take the coffee black more often than not. (See Birth and Death).

Helping Princess stay still so that littler Princess can chow down.

Helping Princess stay still so that littler Princess can chow down.

After breakfast, the animals are attended to. (See Old MacDonald’s Farm) Our current collection of horses, chickens, rabbits, cats, goats, turkeys, sheep, donkey, cow and dog are fed and watered and any issues that need to be addressed are done so at this time. For example, this Saturday our youngest goat, Princess, had her first baby. She has been having a bit of a problem adjusting to her new role as mother when just on Friday she was a carefree youngster. So we have been assisting with her learning curve a bit. Princess gets a little extra corn to increase milk production and a little help in remembering to stay put so her littler princess can have some breakfast. We expect to only have to assist a day or so more.

Doing the wash at the community laundry mat.

Doing the wash at the community laundry mat.

After that, we gather the laundry together and head to Quirahoyo to do the wash. (See After Ecstasy the laundry) Many hands make the work light, so we each set up at our own washboard. This Sunday, a local elderly woman was there with her broom and rake, clearing up the place. She was complaining about the amount of trash, which was considerable. As we leave no trash, our consciences were clean in that regard. My husband gave her a hand with the raking. In gratitude, she lit the pile of trash with her cigarette before we had finished washing, and we finished up with smoke in our eyes and a cough in our throats.

No electricity = no dryer

No electricity = no dryer

We headed home to hang the clothes for drying. About this time we start to get a little hungry. Sometimes we go for a plate of birriria ( goat broth) or head to Cerano for some carnitas de res (fried beef) (See Failing at your own business–Tianguis) but this last Sunday we stayed home and had leftovers.  Remember, no refrigeration means food is eaten in a timely manner.  Of course, with a pre-teen in the house, leftovers are not much of a problem.

Attending to the needs of property owners in La Yacata.

Attending to the needs of property owners in La Yacata.

Just as we finished, we had visitors. A couple that owned lots in La Yacata came to see if we could help them locate the lots and if we knew anyone who would be interested in buying them. My husband went with them to mark the lots with cal (chalk). Even though we tried to pass our positions in the mesa directiva (community group) last November (See Trying to Bow Out of the Yacata Revolution) colonos (residents) still come to us when there is an issue with their lot.

Goalie boy!

Goalie boy!

Then it’s time for our son’s soccer game. He has become quite the enthusiast, even playing goalie on two teams right now with a third school team in the works. Today’s game was close, 6 to 5, but they came out victorious which puts this team in the semi-finals.

Enchilada ingredients

Enchilada ingredients

We stopped for an ice cream treat and picked up tortillas, vegetables and cheese for enchiladas. While my husband prepared them, he is after all the authentic Mexican around here, my son and I did some general straightening up around the house. During the week we often are pressed for time and things can get disordered if we don’t stay on top of things.

Enchiladas!

Enchiladas!

After we ate, it was time to take the goats and horses out for their daily romp. There isn’t much in the way of food during the dry season for the animals, but they enjoy their time out and about anyway. We are only taking the adults out right now, at least until this mob of babies is just a little bit older. The kids don’t mind the unsupervised recess time either and frolic about like, well, kids in the enclosed space set aside for them.

Everybody enjoys grazing time!

Everybody enjoys grazing time!

This afternoon, since there was a wee bit of rain last night, my husband harnessed Fiona up to test the soil.  It turned out to be still too dry, so she and the horses spent the afternoon grazing in the field instead.

Taking a turn at the plow.

Taking a turn at the plow.

After everybody is back in, it’s siesta time. My son and I often use this time to read. My husband likes to use this time to dream with or about the animals. He builds his stables in the air so to speak while listening to the radio outside. It’s a quite time of day.

Feeding time

Feeding time

Once the heat of the day has passed, we start with the evening chores. The animals need fed and watered. The clothes need brought in and put away. Things need readied up for Monday morning and the workweek. We eat dinner or have snacks if we like. Once it is dark, we plug our DVD player into the AC/DC adapter in the truck and watch a movie, a nice reward for our long day. Morning comes early after all!

***

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Courting in Cerano

The tianguis on Sunday in Cerano.

The tianguis on Sunday in Cerano.

Last weekend we gathered our chichares (junk) together and headed to Cerano to see what we could sell for cash. (See Failing at your own Business–Tianguis) The morning was busy but uneventful. We sold things right off the bat and then sold some more. Buyers were typically male and campesinos (country folk). We sold enough for us to get some Cerano specialty carnitas de res (fried cow parts) and ice cream. My husband, as always, was in charge of any and all business, therefore my son and I had some free time on our hands. We decided to people watch.

El templo in Cerano.

El templo in Cerano.

Every town has its “circuit” where the young girls and boys circle around and observe, talk to or hook up with members of the opposite sex. In Cerano, Sunday afternoons in the tianguis is the place to be. Things really didn’t get interesting until after mass, around 12 pm. Then the young people began to peacock around.

Watching the girls!

Watching the girls!

My son and I were most interested in what makes a muchacho or muchacha attractive and the subsequent “hooking up” stage. We began by observing the groups of boys. They circled in groups anywhere from 2 to 6 in a group. Each group had its own identity. There seemed to be 3 main styles. There were the psuedo-skaters (psuedo in the sense that they did not carry skateboards) in t-shirts and tight colored jeans with even more colorful shoes. Then there were the vaqueros (cowboys) with their checked shirts, jeans, boots and belt buckles. And finally there were the bad boy gansta-wanna-bes with their t-shirts, baggy pants and sparkly gun/marijuana/skull belt buckles, maybe even an earring or two.

We noticed that girls arrived and made the circuit in groups of two, sometimes three. Some girl packs came with their little ones wrapped in rebozos. (See Babywearing in Mexico). Others had toddlers that trailed behind. Some came with their mothers or grandmothers. A few came came alone and met up with friends as they circled. All the young ladies were dressed to the hilt.

The main objective is to get the attention of the opposite sex, whether through ostentatious dress or eye contact. Some efforts to get the girls’ attentions were complete and utter failures. Hooting and hollering made the girls speed up or take a sudden left turn into oblivion. Although most already were acquainted, sometimes we witnessed formal presentations by an intermediate after liberal eyeballing from both parties. These introductions allowed the formerly group of 2 to become 3 and the circuit walk continued.

A "couple" walk in Cerano consists of the man walking slightly behind his woman with his hand on her shoulder.

A “couple” walk in Cerano consists of the man walking slightly behind his woman with his hand on her shoulder.

The commitment level of the relationship was easy to read. Single males were still in their wolf packs. The newly hooked up circled in groups of 2 or three (the potential couple and chaperon female friend). Those in the official couplehood stage walked in the customary Cerano way–the female was slightly ahead of the male who had his hand on her shoulder “guiding” her along.

Young couples with babies have a modified couple walk. The woman holds the hands of toddlers, and more often than not, the male carries the infants. This allows the woman to have her hands free for shopping, after all, they were at the tianguis and certain things need to be bought. Women with children who had no man, perhaps he was in el norte (the US) or the relationship had ended, carried their own children and were often with another female friend in the same position, or more rarely with their mothers. These women, or young ladies, were either “single” or “in a relationship” which could be determined by how much skin was exposed. The committed had far less tata display than the single ladies.

A gathering of married men in el jardin in Cerano.

A gathering of married men in el jardin in Cerano.

Men married for an extended period of time arrived as lone wolves, meeting up in the jardin (central park) with other lone wolves after making the circuit and seeing what there was to see. Women of the same age also arrived alone, but didn’t typically linger after making necessary purchases.

Everything you could possible need is on sale in Cerano on Sundays.

Everything you could possible need is on sale in Cerano on Sundays.

What an educational day! In the early afternoon, we called it quits, gathered up what remained of our crap for sale and headed home.

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Filed under Cultural Challenges, Mexican Cultural Stories

Shipping Fiasco

Fed-ex Moroleon

Fed-ex Moroleon

So with my ill gotten (See Failing at your own business–essay writing) and legitimate gotten gains piling up in my Paypal account burning a hole in my virtual pocket, I decided to do some online shopping. First I went to Amazon.com, however nobody wanted to ship to Mexico and Amazon.com.mx, well had nothing that I wanted. So I went to Ebay Mexico. And yep, they’d ship it to me. Since the last time I used Ebay, oh some 8 years ago, they had started this global shipping program that would ship anywhere in the world. Sounded great! As it turns out, I apparently live in a parallel universe, but I was unaware of that until the shipping nightmare began.

I bought myself some pants and my husband a MP4 player. The shipping fees were incredible–and not in a good way. The jeans were $205 pesos and shipping was $391 pesos more. The MP4 was $617 pesos and the shipping added another $299 pesos. Well, the global shipping program said that there would be no surprise import tariffs at the border, so what the heck. I had the moolah and I spent it.

A week later, I also ordered an archery set for my son. Shipping doubled the price yet again. The archery set was $630 pesos and the shipping was $638 pesos. I thought it worth it because the only archery set we found here was over $2500, therefore $1200 was a real bargain. And I sat back and waited.

About a week later, I checked on the shipping status—and low and behold, the first two packages were at the border. Yippee Skippy! Not long now! So I waited another week and checked the shipping status. I saw that a delivery had been attempted, but had been incomplete because the “business was closed or client unavailable.” Now, that seemed strange. I figured they’d try again the next day, and they did but found the address “undeliverable.” Now I started to worry. After three days of out for delivery but not delivered, I tried to contact the sellers to see if they had any information that might be useful. Ebay wouldn’t let me. My email was sent to Ebay customer service and my claims put on hold until January 6th. I wrote again and specifically asked if they could tell me who the carrier was from Morelia to Moroleon so that I could contact the company, meet the driver or pick up the packages at the facility in Morelia. Graciously, Ebay allowed that I could do that and that the carrier was Fed-ex.

OH! That explains it! I had listed our apartado (post office box) as our address since La Yacata has no street names. I had never had any issues before as the packages had been sent regular mail, which of course arrives at the post office box with no problems. When we had to use DHL for our passports (See Renewing out passports–DHL) we had the package sent directly to the office and picked it up from there. So my hope was to contact Fed-ex and pick up the packages that were “in transit” at the distribution facility in Morelia. According to Map Quest, it was 50 minutes from Moroleon, completely drive-able.

So then began my quest to contact Fed-ex. I spent hours attempting to contact someone in customer service. Of course, I expected a wait since it was right before Christmas and all, but really, hours? Then I finally was able to contact someone who regretfully told me that the Global Tracking number I had was not a Fed-ex tracking number, therefore Fed-ex couldn’t track it. So I contacted Ebay customer service again and asked for the Fed-ex tracking number. I didn’t receive any response. So I tried contacting the sellers again to ask if they by chance had the Fed-ex tracking number, and they didn’t.

Meanwhile, the third package was winding its way down. I saw on the tracking form that delivery had been attempted. I had exhausted all my options for package recovery by this time. However, miracles of miracles, Fed-ex called me after Christmas to request a different address for delivery. The impatient young lady accepted the address and clumsy directions I gave to the school where I work. I said I would be there awaiting the package.  She said would it head back to Moroleon that afternoon. I asked about the other packages.  She knew which packages I was talking about but said that there was nothing she could do.  I waited 5 hours at the school that day. Nothing. So the next day, I came back to the school.  While teaching my classes, being the only teacher there as this was Christmas break,  I had to lock the door, but left a big ol’ sign on it that read “Fed-ex–toca la puerta fuerte” (knock loudly). And wouldn’t you know it, Fed-ex came and went while I was in class, leaving a tracking  and contact number. Talk about annoyed! I called the contact number, which was local and the nicest man answered the phone. He was sympathetic to my dilemma. He said that he could ask the driver to leave the package with him at the office 4 blocks from the school and I could pick it up tomorrow at 9 am. That would be perfect!

So the next morning, I went over to Queretaro street and lo and behold, there was a Fed-ex office! Imagine that! The same pleasant man was there and was able to hand the package right over to me. He couldn’t do anything about the first two packages as I didn’t have the Fed-ex tracking numbers and he was sorry about that. He said the office has been there 4 years, but I found no listing for it when I did my desperate Google searches. Had anyone from Fed-ex called me about the failed delivery of the first two packages instead of allowing them to endlessly circulate in the delivery truck, I could have made the same arrangements and everything would have been hunky dory.

January 6 came and Ebay declared the packages lost and issued me a refund as a “courtesy”. Well, thank you very much kind sir. I was dissatisfied overall and won’t be using Ebay again. I think I was mostly disappointed because I had this vision of being able to receive items that just aren’t available in our area via mail delivery. Sort of like my own private trade route. Sigh. It just wasn’t to be.

I was also frustrated by the globalization of the global shipping program. I ordered products from Iowa and Florida. The customer service agent was in India. The Fed-ex driver and brisk customer service representative were in Morelia. But not until I was able to contact a local person (the Fed-ex employee four blocks away) was I able to complete the process. My problem wasn’t their problem. The sellers didn’t lose out as I had already paid for the items. The Indian customer service representative still got paid whether or not I received my items. The Fed-ex driver and snooty customer service rep also were paid whether or not I got the shipment. Ebay’s loss in refunding me my money was a drop in their earning conglomeration bucket.  The location of my items was only important to the local guy, someone I might theoretically meet again on the street in our town. That’ll teach me.

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Filed under Mail Service and Shipping in Mexico

Up on the roof–that nearly wasn’t

roof

Our goal this year was to add a roof to our second floor. (See Building a dream–constructing a life) We started saving in June or so in the hopes that by the end of the year we would have the $20,000 pesos we estimated we would need. In October, Chuy, who lives up the hill above La Yacata and rents wood for construction, offered to exchange the wood we would need for the roof for our horse Beauty. No cash would exchange hands and both parties would be more than satisfied with the transaction. The deal would save us between $3,000 to $3,500 pesos. Hands were shaken, plans were made and we continued saving.

Wood framing for the roof.

Wood framing for the roof.

Chuy came for Beauty in November with the understanding that we would be ready for colando (wood frame put in place) the week prior to Christmas break. My husband made arrangements for the coladores (men who put the rebar in place and make the cement) to come on December 20 and went to request delivery of the wood. However, Chuy said he didn’t have any wood available at the moment. My husband had already purchased the sand and gravel and had the order for the cement delivery with the loan of a cement mixer, but we wouldn’t be able to use any of that if the wood framework was not already in place. There were several days of heated exchanges between my husband and Chuy. Fortunately, my husband had not given Chuy Beauty’s papers since the deal hadn’t been completed yet, so we were in a more secure bargaining position. The ultimatum was, either the wood was there on the 15th or Beauty came back to live with us. Monday morning came and there was a wood delivery–not everything we needed though. The next three days were tense as my husband and my father-in-law used each delivery of wood and requested more for the following day. Because of the piecemeal delivery, they were still working Saturday afternoon, the day the coladores came to set the rebar and el plomero from up the hill came to run the electricity tube. (We still cherish a wee bit of hope that one day we will have electricity.)

Rebar lain over the wood framing reading for the cement.

Rebar lain over the wood framing reading for the cement.

Sunday morning came and there were still some sections of wood to be put up. My son and father-in-law went up to the roof while my husband and I made a 5 am trip to Ojo de Agua en Media to fill 7 barricas (barrels) with water for the cement mix. At around 7 am, the workers began arriving on foot or by bike, quite a motley crew, ranging in age from early 20s to early 70s. They set to work making a wooden walkway from the street to the roof but ran out of nails. My husband sent me to town to the ferreteria (hardware store) to get a kilo of long nails. It being Sunday, the place that we normally go was closed. I asked the muchacha in the store across the street if she thought it would open. She said most likely since it was opened last Sunday. Since we needed the nails, I opted to stay in town in the hopes that it would open at 9. I went to the store and picked up some coke (requested by the workers), 5 kilos of tortillas, and chicarones (fried pig skin). The carniceria hadn’t received its delivery of carnitas yet, so I’d have to come back. As the ferreteria (hardware store) hadn’t opened yet, I started circling Moroleon in search of another place to buy nails. NOTHING was open! I drove around nearly 40 minutes, doing a complete circuit. On the way back to the first ferreteria (hardware store), I heard someone call my name. It was el plomero with his wife. In desperation I blurted out the problem and asked if he had any nails at his house. He said he did and that I should follow them. I followed them to the carniceria (butcher) and the fruteria (fruit and vegetable store) and then to the place they rented a few months ago when it just became too much for them to live in La Yacata without electricity. He gave me a half-bucket of rusty nails that seemed to be the right size and I gave him 20 pesos and zoomed off.

Ramp to the roof.

Ramp to the roof.

My husband lunged for the bucket when I arrived and thought it would probably be enough. The workers set back to work on their walkway. In short order, it was finished and they were ready to rev up the cement mixer. It started, but would shut off after a minute or two. The men ripped off the motor casing to have a look. The head guy asked for a spark plug–which we did have just lying around. He did some monkeying around and tried again. NOPE! More fiddling, and a nope! By this time is was nearly 10 am and we haven’t even started. Everyone crossed themselves for another try and…..finally it started. Then stopped after 2 minutes. This time the gas valve wasn’t opened, which was a quick fix. Voila! The mixer started turning.

on the roof

My husband sent me to town for a garafon of gas for the mixer and more trips for water. I picked up the carnitas too. When I got back, there seemed to be decidedly less gente (people) than when I left. Three guys were up on the roof with my father-in-law and husband. The boss guy had gone to town to see about getting more men, as had 4 other guys–or so they said. One of the missing did meander back with a bottle of tequila and then we realized what the problem was. We hadn’t provided alcohol for the men! DUH! Here I was thinking that the booze was for after the job was finished. Silly me. So my husband hunted up his brother B and asked him to pick up a case of beer for the guys. When the beer arrived, so did more men. Now we were rolling! After the food was eaten, I made myself scarce so that the guys could enjoy their beer, call each other guey and insult each other’s mothers while they worked.

Mixing guys

Mixing guys

It took all day but the men were happy to continue as long as the alcohol held out. When they finished, the head boss guy received the $3000 pesos agreed upon and he doled it out to the workers as he saw fit. Most of the guys really only worked for lunch, a few beers and some change. After they left, the work still wasn’t finished. My husband, son and father-in-law filled in any cracks, tamped down the roof and swept the new cement with a broom. They finally finished just as it got dark. For the next 22 days, the wood framework stayed in place and the roof was doused twice daily with water to reduce cracking. My husband also put a row of bricks around the edge, perhaps later to develop into a half-wall. We spent close to $25,000 pesos even with the free wood rent but it really is the last major expense on our house. Everything else can be done in bits and pieces as we have the money. Whew!

Finishing up!

Finishing up!

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