Category Archives: Alternative Farming

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

Natural Healing — Calabaza

The oldest pumpkin seed found was in the Guila Naquitz Cave in Oaxaca and dates as far back as 7000 BC.  Squash has been cultivated in the Tehuacan and Oaxaca valleys and in Tamaulipas since 6000-5000 BC. Its cultivation predates the domestication of maize and beans by about 4,000 years. 

Calabaza was a ritual offering presented in honor of the dead during the month of Miccailhuitontli by the Aztecs and is still considered an appropriate addition to the altar during El Dia de Los Muertos celebration in Mexico in the form of calabaza en tacha (candied squash).

In addition to a delightful culinary treat, calabaza has been used medicinally to treat intestinal parasites, gastric disorders, obesity, diabetes, and nervios (nerves). 

Cooked squash of any variety is good anytime to calm the nerves. If you’d like to find a way to incorporate more squash in your diet, horchata de semillas de calabaza is a refreshing beverage. Take 100 grams of squash seeds (pepitos) and 5 grams of hierbabuena fresca (fresh spearmint leaves). Add ¼ liter of milk and piloncillo (cone brown sugar) to taste. If you are using it medicinally, drink for three days in a row for stomach ailments. 

Domesticated Calabaza

There are five varieties of calabaza cultivated in Mexico today. 

Cucurbita moschata (including butternut squash) is referred to by a variety of other names including calabaza de Castilla, calabaza de casco, calabaza de pellejo, calabaza cuaresmeña, calabaza caliente, calabaza de pepita menuda, támala, calabaza de camote, calabaza torpe, ayote, Xnuk kuum, Nujuch kuum, and Xmejen kuum (Maya). The seeds, roots, flowers, and squash from the cucurbita moschata variety are used to treat urinary tract infections and skin ailments. The extracted oil has antioxidant properties. 

For parasites, one remedy calls for a concoction of 30 grams of aceite de ricino (castor oil) and a pinch of salt. This is paired with calabaza en tacha made from C. moschata without the skin served in ½ cup of milk. 

Another parasite treatment consists of a handful of toasted or raw seeds known as pepitas also from the cucurbita moschata variety of calabaza (pumpkins) and a few hierbabuena (spearmint) leaves eaten on an empty stomach. 

The flowers of the cucurbita pepo are eaten seasonally with blue or yellow corn tortillas, most often in quesadillas. To prepare the flowers, they are boiled and the water is discarded so that any toxins are eliminated. The flowers are also served as part of salads or stuffed with cheese. The roots, leaves, squash, and seeds of this variety are used to stimulate the appetite. 

Cucurbita pepo is also known as calabaza de comer, calabaza de manteca, calabaza de carrizo, calabaza mediana, Tsol, Tsool, Tzol (Maya) tempranilla, and mensejo. The grated raw peel from the cucurbita pepo is applied to burns and hemorrhoids as it is effective in wound healing. This variety, from root to fruit, is used in several areas of Mexico to improve health in general. It has a pancreatic lipase inhibition effect.

Cucurbita argyrosperma is also known as calabaza caliente, calabaza de las aguas, calabaza pinta, calabaza de casco, calabaza criolla, calabaza pipiana, calabaza tapona, calabaza rayada, pipián, or calabaza guajolota. The seeds, flowers, young stems, and tender squash are eaten. The squash is made into a pulp and applied externally to treat skin ailments. 

Cucurbita ficifolia is known as chilacayote, chilacayo, or chilaca. In Nahuatl, this variety was chilicayotli from the word tzilacayotli originally which translates to “smooth squash”. The young stems are eaten as a vegetable. When this squash is fully mature, it is fibrous and is used to make the sweet cabellos de ángel (angel’s hair) treat. Other candied squash made from this variety are dulce de alcayota, cayote en hebras, mermelada de calabaza, mazamorra de calabaza. 

In Chiapas, the seeds are toasted and set in honey to make palanquetas (a candy bar). C. ficifolia has a marked hypoglycemic effect. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Extract from C. ficifolia has been shown to be promising in the treatment of obesity. 

Cucurbita maxima is also known as zapallo. Its seeds are the snack pepita rusa (Russian pumpkin seeds), eaten salted and toasted. This variety includes the red or orange pumpkin most people associate with Halloween. It is native to South America. In Chiapas, this variety is called malayota because it resembles tamale dough when pulped.

C. maxima has been shown to quickly decrease high blood glucose levels. C. maxima seed oil is useful in treating an overactive bladder. Ayo-nelhuatl (cucurbita maxima) root is mentioned in Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis as part of a concoction used as an after-birth vaginal wash. 

Wild Calabaza

These five are the most commonly cultivated calabazas found in Mexico. However, there are other wild calabazas that are used medicinally as well. 

Cucurbita foetidissima (Buffalo Gourd) is a wild calabaza whose sour fruit is used medicinally after being cooked. The seed sprouts and roots are toxic and should never be ingested. The leaves and roots are used medicinally in Chihuahua.  In other states, the roots are used to make soap because of its saponin content. 

This variety is also known as calabacilla amarga, cohombro, hierba de la víbora, calabaza amargosa, calabacilla loca, calabacilla silvestre, calabaza de burro, chili coyote, calabaza hedionda, calabaza silvestre, calabaza del diablo, calabacilla de burro, Cua-cua (Chontal), chichic-amole and guelto-lana (Zapotec).

Apodanthera undulata (AKA calabaza hedionda or melon loco) is made into a pulp and used topically in the state of Guanajuato. The seeds are used to stimulate appetite in Jalisco and Zacatecas where it is known as calabaza amarga or calabaza loca.

In addition to the medicinal applications already mentioned, all calabazas varieties have antifungal and antibacterial properties. One more interesting cucurbita is the Cayaponia tayuya. The roots of this squash, native to the Amazon, have been useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis and also been proven helpful in the treatment of Epstein-Barr and skin tumors

It just goes to show that a plant we may overlook may be full of beneficial properties.

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