Harvesting cactus

I love cactus! It has a fresh, green taste that is all its own. And it can be found right in our little community, no trip to the fruteria (greengrocers) necessary. We’ve even planted some cactus in our backyard, however it will be YEARS before they are big enough to harvest from.

nopal

The nopal (cactus) is one of the fundamental symbols of Mexico.  It is considered la planta de vida (life-giving plant) as it seems to never die.  Fallen pencas (leaves) form new plants, therefore an apt symbol of the life-rebirth cycle found in the most ancient of Mexican myths.full of tunas

According to legend, the first nopal (cactus) grew from Copil‘s heart, son of Malinalxochitl, the moon, and Chimalcuauhtli.  Copil had attempted to murder his uncle Huitzilopochtli, the sun, because he had abandoned his mother.  According to legend, Huitzilopochtli defeated his nephew and removed Copil’s heart, which was later buried. The next day, the first nopal appeared, complete with the thorns of a warrior and flowers that blossomed with the love Copil had shown in defending his mother. This nopal (cactus) was discovered by the wandering Aztecs.  Atop the nopal was an eagle, devouring a serpent, over a lake, the sign the nomads had been waiting for.

flag

To have la cara de nopal (the face of a cactus) is to say that one’s indigenous ancestry is evident.  My husband has a decided cara de nopal and that isn’t a bad thing.

Yes, I'm pocho (a Mexican who has turned his back on his ancestry usually living in the US) but I haven't been able to get rid of this cara de nopal (Mexican face).

Yes, I’m pocho (a Mexican who has turned his back on his ancestry usually living in the US) but I haven’t been able to get rid of this cara de nopal (Mexican face).

There is a technique however to harvesting. The pencas (leaves) should be a light green. Older pencas can be eaten, but they tend to have a bitter taste. The penca should be cut at the base, and handled gingerly. It is a cactus after all and there are espinas (thorns).

nopales to harvest

Once a good number have been collected, it’s time to despina (remove the thorns). It isn’t a terribly difficult process and practice makes perfect. The base of the thorn is cut, away from the cutter, and discarded. The outside edge is also skinned off. My husband always does this outside–less clean up involved. And that’s pretty much it. The cactus is ready for cooking.

dethorning cactusdethorning side

Cactus can be cooked as an entire leaf on the comal (griddle) or cut into pieces. It can be boiled or basted in tripa (intestine) juice, which is my favorite manner of preparation. It can be eaten warm or cold, used like a tortilla around cheese–a nopaldilla if you will–eaten as a salad with tomato and chili, or with beans and onions or ..well you get the idea.

boiled nopalroasted nopalnopales

A nice size bag of the nopales, tomato, onion and yellow chili mixture can be bought from the corner vendor for 10 pesos. Fast-food at its best!

Delicious tunas ready to eat with a little limon y sal.

Delicious tunas ready to eat with a little limon y sal.

Cactus also provides fruit in season, tunas (See Picking Tunas), the heart of Copil. Just more evidence that even in the desert, “the earth provides enough for every man’s need” –Mathama Ghandi.

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Let’s talk about food in La Yacata

Our whole purpose in living in off-grid rural Mexico is to become self-sufficient. After 9 years of slow progress, we still aren’t there yet. But we are closer than we were.

bean and corn

Our microcosm provides us with regular food stuffs. We grow corn, beans and squash ever year in the traditional way on sharecropped land. (See Las tres hermanas) Our non-GMO organic corn not only provides year-round foods for our animals, but also allows for equally healthy tortillas–the very foundation of Mexican cuisine. My sister-in-law runs a tortilleria (See Failing at your own business–Tortilleria) so I am relieved of this very time-consuming task. Corn is also used in tamales, pozole and a plethora of other traditional dishes.

Corn and lime boiling in preparation for milling for tortillas.

Corn and lime boiling in preparation for milling for tortillas.

We also grow garbanzo after the corn growing season is finished.  It makes for a nice snack, either raw or steamed, with the added benefit that the entire plant is eagerly consumed by our grazing animals.  Fiona the donkey is especially fond of garbanzo.

garbanzo

Steamed garbanzos

Our organically fed animals also provide us with delicious foodstuff. From our small herd of goats, we have daily milk and occasional meat. The milk we don’t drink right away is pastured right on the stove for later. We use it for creamy hot chocolate or honey-dripped oatmeal. The honey is from a local organic hive and delicious!

pasturizing milk

As we don’t have refrigeration, we dry our leftover meat into jerky strips. The dried meat theoretically should last several weeks, however it rarely does due to the presence of a pre-teen, always ravenous, boy.

drying goat meat

Our chickens, ducks and turkeys provide us with daily eggs and occasional meat as well. Just as with the goats, this means butchering. My husband has had years of practice at this and therefore our animals do not suffer needlessly.

butchering

We also keep rabbits and have recently added sheep to our backyard barnyard. Both provide occasional meat. (See Waskely Wabbits and Old MacDonald’s Farm). I’m hoping that our sheep will provide us with wool and perhaps milk later on as well. But as we haven’t had much success with sheep herding (See Birth and Death) it remains to be seen if that will actually happen or not.

Tunas are not hard to find after the rainy season.

Tunas are not hard to find after the rainy season.

La Yacata provides food, free of charge, for us as well. Cactus fruit is abundant towards the end of the rainy season. It’s not unusual for us to spend an afternoon foreging for pitayas (See Picking Pitayas) or tunas (See Picking tunas) or harvesting nopales (cactus leaves)(See Harvesting Cactus) for dinner.

Feverfew

Feverfew

Tea can be made from hojas (leaves) or roots of a variety of naturally available plants. (See Feverfew tea and Lentejilla). Wild mushrooms are also found aplenty during the rainy season.

Acebuche berries

Acebuche berries

Mequite trees provide a chewy sweet treat for snack. Acebuche trees have tart red berries that can be eaten right off the tree or made into a refreshing drink. Even the grass is edible. Quelite can be boiled like spinach.  (See Women in the Revolution–Marcelina)

Chirimoya fruit

Chirimoya fruit

We have moras, chirimoya, guayaba, limones and durazno in season in our own garden. We anxiously awaiting fruit from our granada and mispero trees this year. Our orange tree up and died last year, so it looks like no oranges this year. I hope to do some container gardening as well. Backyard gardening hasn’t been very successful with our free range chickens and rabbits out and about.

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Some Unconsidered Aspects of Physical Training–Soccer

My husband and I are active but have never considered ourselves athletic. We don’t follow sports on television or attend sporting events. So when our son started showing an interest in soccer, we didn’t take it seriously at first.

Being an only child meant that he was frustrated in his attempts to practice different soccer moves he had seen on youtube. It seemed important to him, so I promised him 15 minutes daily of my time. During those 15 minutes he would show me how he wanted the ball sent his way and he would make the concerted effort to block or capture it.

After a few weeks of this, he asked if he could join a soccer team. I told him that if he found a team, he would need to let us know about the costs and training schedule and that we discuss it. Meanwhile, he redoubled his efforts in our “practice.” I happened to go with him and his friend one Saturday to the park and it changed what I thought about his level of interest in soccer. The boys watched the game and during half-time, used the field while the players rested. Every 30 minutes, they had 5-10 minutes to play. Yes, my son could be on a soccer team if the opportunity presented itself. Any kid that would patiently wait out a game just for a few minutes on the field was serious about playing.

The object of athletics and gymnastics should be kept steadily to the front; enjoyment is good by the way, but is not the end; the end is the preparation of a body, available from crown to toe, for whatever behest 'the gods' may lay upon us.--Charlotte Mason

The object of athletics and gymnastics should be kept steadily to the front; enjoyment is good by the way, but is not the end; the end is the preparation of a body, available from crown to toe, for whatever behest ‘the gods’ may lay upon us.–Charlotte Mason

One of his classmates said that his team had an opening and asked my son could go and talk to the coach. Desperate, he asked if he could go. I said yes with the understanding that we would know exactly where he was at all times and that he would get the information about the cost of uniforms, salary for the coach and times for practice. The coached allowed my son to join the team. There were no fees involved. The uniform and socks could be obtained for under 100 pesos in el mercado (market). So much the better.

Training would be Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 to 6:30. I rearranged my afternoon class schedule so that I could take him to the field. My husband then would pick him up after he finished work. He gave the coach 2 small photos and a copy of his birth certificate so that a credential (identification) could be made. He used his savings to buy a pair of soccer cleats and he was all ready to go.

His first game was on a Sunday morning. He was nervous–really, really nervous. He also had a bit of a cold. We did our morning chores (See A Day in the Life) and headed to the playing field. Unfortunately, the team played in Uriangato which is quite a distance from La Yacata. A half-mile from the field, we ran out of gas. My husband went for gas, my son went in the direction of the field, and I waited with the car. Of course, being late didn’t help his overall confidence any.

He played in the second half. He was the newbie and all. He didn’t do very well, but his team won the game, so no real harm done. I waited to see if he wanted to throw in the towel or give it another go. He opted to head to practice on Tuesday.

In all matters physical exercise it is obvious to us that––do a thing a hundred times and it becomes easy, do a thing a thousand times and it becomes mechanical, as easy to do as not.--Charlotte Mason

In all matters physical exercise it is obvious to us that––do a thing a hundred times and it becomes easy, do a thing a thousand times and it becomes mechanical, as easy to do as not.–Charlotte Mason

His real dream was to play goalie. He managed to talk the coach into letting him try out for the position. The coach seemed suitably impressed. After a few weeks, he switched uniforms with the present goalie. His self-esteem was sky-high. Then the coach asked if he would be interested in playing with the juvenile (teen-age) team that he coached. My son regretfully declined. But the coach asked again, as did several of the big boy players. We agreed he could play with the understanding that he would only be able to go to practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays like he had been doing–no additional practice days. He agreed and two teams practiced together on those days. Even so, the juvenile team played on Saturdays, so it did add another game day to his schedule.

He knows that to be cleanly, neat, prompt, orderly, is so much towards making a man of him, and man and hero are in his thought synonymous terms.--Charlotte Mason

He knows that to be cleanly, neat, prompt, orderly, is so much towards making a man of him, and man and hero are in his thought synonymous terms.–Charlotte Mason

With two weekend games, he has had to become more responsible for his uniform. We wash on Sunday mornings (See After Ecstasy the laundry) but that doesn’t allow enough time for his uniform to dry. So he has now developed the habit of washing his uniform himself right after the Saturday game and hanging it out to dry so that it will be clean and presentable for the Sunday game.

It is inconvenient. The practice and playing fields are quite a distance from our home. It is expensive. My son bought 5 soccer balls in as many weeks, the original uniform, two pairs of cleats, two pairs of gloves, shin guards and then shorts for the new team uniform. We just don’t have the money to spare, so my son has purchased all of the items from his savings. It is time consuming. We had a pretty full schedule already. There are so many things that just have to be done that there isn’t a lot of time for things that we want to do.

Habits of behaviour; habits of deportment, habits of address, tones of voice, etc., all the habits of a gentleman-like bearing and a kind and courteous manner, fall under this head of self-discipline in bodily habits.--Charlotte Mason

Habits of behaviour; habits of deportment, habits of address, tones of voice, etc., all the habits of a gentleman-like bearing and a kind and courteous manner, fall under this head of self-discipline in bodily habits.–Charlotte Mason

I worry about his safety, especially with the bigger boys. The players are fairly aggressive and near-fights happen as players are fouled. I worry when the ball hits his face or a player kicks him. Then I realized that his team’s whole focus is protecting the goal, which is in essence, protecting my son. My worry eased. I worry when I drop him off for practice. The practice field isn’t exactly in the best neighborhood. Then I realized that I won’t always be able to protect him from the world and that he has quite a bit of common sense that could be relied on. (See Independence vs. Safety) I worried less. I worry about the habits he might pick up when I hear the other players call each other “guey”. Then I realized that he has already learned in which situations such informality is permissible. No worries!

Even with these negatives, as I watch my son play, I know that it is the right thing for him to do. His pre-teen awkwardness becomes grace on the field. He is learning to find joy in success and to handle disappointment with style. He is learning how to become one part of a whole. He is learning to find pleasure in his youth and a well-trained body. Most of all, he is learning balance. There is a time and a place for everything, including sports.

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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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