Category Archives: Alternative Farming

My Inner Herb Song

So I’ve had a rough couple of weeks, and I expect it will be a rough couple more. Things started out rosy in March, and then I had a birthday—just my 49th, not a milestone or anything, and while I’m ok with my age, it reminded me of all those who didn’t make it to 49 with me. 

But I shook it off and kept moving forward in busyness–until I lost my main source of income teaching online. And I was sure something would turn up, but as the days turned to weeks, and nothing did, well, you can imagine how that weighed on me. (More about that saga in another post). 

Midway through April now, and I’m dealing with swollen and painful joints keeping me housebound, just when I thought to start planting my garden. And looming ahead is May when my son turns 20 (where did the time go?), and my mom will have been gone a year. 

In between, I’ve been working steadily on some plant studies. Yesterday I finished the thirtieth one, which means the first draft of a new herb book will be out soon. 

Chatting with one of my besties, who is also having a rough time of it (aren’t we all?), I mentioned how much I enjoy my herb research. I admitted I even have a little herb song that plays in my head while I look up Nahuatl terms and try to decipher yet another scientific paper on plant properties. 

It goes something like Rihanna’s “Work,” but instead, I sing, “Herbs, herbs, herbs, herbs. I really like them herbs, herbs, herbs, herbs…Digging in the dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt….” and so on. Anyway, it’s a happy little ditty with a lot of repetition and mumbling. 

You may be wondering how I pick the next plant study when there are so many to choose from. After all, Mexico is one of the ten most biodiverse countries in the world. 

Sometimes it’s random. I might see something in an article or in my Facebook feed about some plant or other, and I jump in with both feet researching. But mostly, it’s more of a personal connection that leads me down the garden path of investigation.

For example, last week, my sister-in-law was over, and I, of course, had to show her my plants. She pointed to one particular viney weedy thing with white flowers that sprung up from nowhere and said that that one was for coughs. WHAT! Now I have to look into la artemisia (the plant in question) and see what is to be seen. Very exciting!

Or take another instance. I expect this year to be rather difficult all around with rising food prices and now my unemployment. So I thought long and hard about what would be the best use of the limited growing space I had. While researching native plants, I came across huautli, outlawed by the Spanish conquerors. Now known by its European moniker, amaranto is hailed as a superfood. Well then, I could plant huautli and girasoles (also believed to be native to Mexico) along with maíz, frijoles, and calabazas. And it’s exciting!

Or maybe I’ve picked up another tea concoction for my son to try who still struggles with breathing two years after Covid, and it doesn’t work as well as the last tea. After looking at the ingredients and seeing that gordolobo (Verbascum thapsus) is in one but not in the other–and voila. Gordolobo is a plant that helps his breathing and I’m off to the indigenous herbalist in town to get some and at my computer doing some more research. 

Each plant is like a little mystery waiting to be solved. I try to answer what it is, how is it best grown, how it is used (fresh or dry), and ultimately what is its value. It’s fitting as I putter in my garden, sitting, of course, to spare my knees, with my hair faded to grey and the freshness of youth gone, I wonder: Who is she? What is her value? How is she best grown? And then my little inner herb song kicks in…and it’s ok.

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Discover how native Mexican plants can enrich your garden!

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Filed under Alternative Farming, Health, Mexican Food and Drink, Native fauna and flora, Natural Healing

Has rainy season arrived?

The neighbor’s roof! Not a great picture but I wasn’t going outside!

The month of May was blazingly hot, as it is every year. At the very end of the month, we had a shower or two that sent the campesinos out into their fields to ready the rows for planting. Then June arrived and we’ve been hit with not one, but two, terrific storms. The first storm was so strong that the neighbor’s roof blew off, metal support beams and all. 

The rain brought out all the critters. We’ve been inundated with scorpions in the house. Every night we try to do a thorough wall check for these little buggers. Having been stung before, all of us wish to avoid that painful encounter completely.

Then the mice have been out and about. Fred does his part in the back to try and keep the mouse population under control. George takes credit for Fred’s kills in the morning, as any respectable head dog would do. And delightfully, Manchas has proven herself to be an excellent mouser, despite her small size. Yesterday morning, Cocoa and Fuzz roused me out of bed for their breakfast at the ungodly hour of 4:50 am. I didn’t see Manchas, so I flicked on a few lights and saw she had not one, but two mice in her clutches on the back porch. WHOOP!

Another home invading species that had taken shelter indoors during the rain was the tarantula. The day before yesterday, my son got into the shower and immediately jumped back out for a weapon. He became a broom-wielding naked ninja against a family of spiders, the largest the size of his hand. We think the spiders had been living in the woodpile and slid into the bathroom window to avoid the worst of the wetness. 

Finally, to remove any remaining doubt that the rainy season has begun, the chicatanas have hatched even though it’s a few weeks early. These flying ants are considered a delicacy in many areas of Mexico, but I haven’t been tempted to try them yet.

Unfortunately, due to the sheets of rain that fell during these two storms, any rows that the farmers made have washed away. The ground is so saturated that walking becomes a heavy-booted effort, so the remarking of the rows is extremely slow going. 

With Mexico in the throes of the worst drought in 30 years, the rainy season is received with gleeful anticipation. Here’s hoping that Tlaloc will smile upon his subjects this year. 

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Filed under Alternative Farming, Battling Nature, Homesteading, Native fauna and flora, Water issues

Breaking Out of Quarantine

Tuesday evening last week we had unexpected visitors. The police arrived at our door at 9:30 pm. We were already tucked in for the night because you know, social distancing and stuff means we stay home. My husband tried to talk to them from the second floor window. Cocoa was having none of that and his hysterical barking meant no one could hear themselves think.

Therefore, my husband put on some clothes and went to the front door. I couldn’t hear what was being said since Cocoa would not be calmed. A few minutes later, he came back in and said they needed to talk to me. So I put on my robe and grumbled my way downstairs to the door.

Turns out they were delivering a summons for me to appear at the ministerio publico on Thursday. I tried to ask what it was about, but they didn’t have any idea. They said if I didn’t appear, they’d come and take punitive action. I said I didn’t have any problem appearing on Thursday. It was my day off. 

So I fretted and speculated what this could be in relation to. Couldn’t come up with a thing. I woke up Thursday morning frazzled at 4 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. At 6, my husband heated a pot of water for my bucket bath. And I grumbled some more. The water delivery was scheduled for 9:30 am and since I had to be in town by 10:00 am, I wouldn’t be able to wait for it. So it was a bucket bath for me.

I zooped my butt to town on my moto and parked in the centro near the Chinese restaurant (so I could pick up an order after this appearance thing) and walked about a block to the ministerio publico. I signed in. I showed the guy at the front desk my paper and he sent me up to the third floor. I approached another guy at a desk and asked where I was supposed to be. He handed my paper off to another woman, who handed it off to yet a third, then went into an office to talk to a woman behind a desk. 

The girl came back out and asked me to wait downstairs in the seating area until they were ready for me. Since I was 15 minutes early, that wasn’t a problem. I brought my kindle. Eventually, I was called back upstairs and met with the woman in the office behind the desk. She looked to be about 20, but as she was the lawyer she must have been older than that–right?

Anyway, the reason for my visit was to inform me that the main office in Celaya had “misplaced” the original certificate that was involved in a court case several years ago. As a representative of the Asociación de La Yacata (I’m still technically the treasurer), she wanted to know if a new certificate could be issued. I said that I didn’t have the authority to do that. Any issuing would be done by Super Prez. 

Fortunately, he was also “invited to appear” that morning at 10:30 am. He also arrived 15 minutes early, which meant we didn’t have to wait for him. The situation was explained again. Super Prez said that instead of issuing a new certificate, we would provide a copy of the original that we had on file. The lawyer then went to the other lawyer for him to ask his client (the lot owner) if that would be acceptable. So we waited for that. 

In the meantime, Super Prez and I caught up on things. He had a construction digger stolen last year and was hoping this summons was to say that it had been found. It hadn’t been. Then I mentioned the rodeo across the street from La Yacata was going to have electricity run to it in the next few months. Representatives from the rodeo association had approached Azul the vet (who also has lots in La Yacata) to ask if we wanted to piggyback on their installation, for a fee mind you. Azul had come to me with this information and now I was sharing it with Super Prez. He said he’d look into it more, but the most we could hope to get out of it would be a post or two closer to La Yacata, which is something anyway. The rodeo is LITERALLY across the street–so it wouldn’t be out of their way to add another post or so to the project. We wouldn’t get electricity because that would require everyone that owns lots (all 700 of them) to agree to pay a portion of it and that’s never gonna happen. 

The other lawyer came back and said a copy would be acceptable to his client. So I would appear again in the office on Friday, with the copy, for the official handover. Not like I have other things to do or anything….like stay away from people. I seriously interacted with more people in one day than I have in weeks. Yes, they all had masks on, but there must have been 20 people in the “interrogacion” room. The lawyer’s mask kept slipping down her nose. GERMS! GERMS! GERMS!

Anyway, we were free to go after that. When I got home, my son was a bit stressed. The water delivery had arrived but one of our goats went into labor at the same time, so it was chaotic. The dogs get riled up when the truck pumps the water and the goat was hollering. My son took care of the firehose while my husband delivered the goat. It was an odd situation. Baby #1 arrived just fine. A second placenta, still intact, appeared. My husband didn’t think there was even a baby, but he took a second look, and lo and behold there was. It was half the size of the first baby. He tore the placenta open and helped out there. 

Notice the size difference!

So what I think we had was the goat was pregnant twice so the kids were different gestational ages. I read about this phenomenon (superfetation) just a little bit ago where this woman who was pregnant with twins got pregnant with baby #3 on her next ovulation cycle. Both the new kids are girls. The premie is weak, naturally, but giving it all she’s got. 

The day wasn’t done with us yet. The horses were out in the front pasture, which has a barbed wire fence around it. Red got loose from his mooring and jumped the fence. Lady was not to be outdone and jumped too. I saw both horses and their award-winning performances from the upstairs window. My son had to run out and round them up.

But we had the dilemma that the new momma goat and her two mismatched offspring were in Red’s stall. It took some doing to get the family moved to the rabbit area in the back. The roving borrega complicated things. The Puppers were befuddled. The mama was unwilling. The kids did not enjoy flying. Lots of squealing going on. Finally, everyone was settled, including the show jumpers. 

Friday came, and I headed back into town to deliver the copy of the certificate that was in the La Yacata files. It took all afternoon, but it got done. I hope I can stay home for a while and avoid people. 

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Read about more animal adventures!

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Filed under Alternative Farming, La Yacata Revolution