Sarah Sass from Homestead Uncensored has shared a day in her family’s life in Owl Valley.
Today is a bright blue Tuesday in the first months of rainy season. To tell the story of today as a constant norm is to cheat dry season’s Sundays when abundance is entangled in drought.
There is no typical day here, only the hope that today is what you have prepared for.
Today will look very different from three days from now when calories begin to run low and water levels drop with no guarantee of relief. Keeping this in mind puts “today” into context, regardless of abundance or lack.
Knowing that rainy season alleviates as much as it exacerbates helps to tell the whole story of a normal day on a homestead in Mexico.
Our days exist in the vesica pisces of harder and smarter. The meeting place for comfort and the archaic.
Early morning is devoted to animals. Scythe cuts back alfalfa. Corn that came in by the ten-thousands is milled to cover the day’s needs. Three buckets of river water to fill the trough. Independent cat finds a mouse while hungry dogs play chase underfoot.
This routine is repeated before the sun sets. Only then, the cat dines on the day’s last basking lizard.
After the final dog is fed, my day of housework begins while my husband makes a mental checklist of the farm’s to-dos over the last cup of coffee. Today: Cut carrizo for roofing on the new sheep shelter. Collect mineral-rich “black gold” from the banks of the flooded river to contribute to the piles of goat manure which will feed baby avocado and citrus trees in coming months. He leaves for the fields with a machete and shovel.
Coffee beans roasted and ground. Pineapple vinegar started with breakfast scraps. Harvest is tucked in to begin their fermenting slumber. Kombucha’s black tea steeps while amaranth bread doubles in size. I sort lentils alongside the six-year-old as he draws the flags of North America and learns that ‘y’ sometimes impersonates a vowel.
All meals and all lesson plans are made from scratch and consume the entire morning. Everyday.
Halfway through the morning dishes, there is another chore for the list: replenish the household’s 1200 liters of water from downhill. Before the well can be uncovered, a neighbor, his wife, son, daughter-in-law and toddler grandson are in our living room. They have come to invite us to their home for tejate. In the next hour.
The actual act of drinking tejate is all of three minutes, yet this invitation will consume the rest of daylight. I send along freshly baked muffins in my place.
With water’s return and a house to myself, dishes are finished, floors are swept and mopped, beds stripped and remade.
Barrels of last night’s rain need filtered for laundry. It has gotten late and afternoon clouds lurk around the adjacent foothills; it’s best to postpone towels and blankets for another day.
Twenty gallons filtered and divided up between buckets posing as washing machines; in dry season they stand in for bathtubs when only warm water will do.
Sheets, pillow cases and throw rugs washed, rinsed and spun. By hand. Everything is washed by hand.
Next up kitchen towels and napkins.
Then child’s clothing.
Beginning the cycle again with my clothes in a week from now.
The shortage of time and covered clothesline drags the chore out over five days.
To avoid musty disappointment, I need to catch the early day heat and pre-storm winds, yet outrun her raindrops. This takes planning.
Rainy season renders the river unusable as the water takes on the hue of ore. This limits our laundry water supply to what collects in rain barrels. Assuming storms don’t lose their sense of direction in the dark and head into other foothills, leaving us dry but with a turbulent river.
Once the river settles, washing returns to the banks where under the shade of soap nut trees and ancient Sabinos, socks are scrubbed one-by-one in the canal while the child digs holes in the sand with a chunk of broken coconut shell. We watch Kingfisher dive among the shallow waters and Crab scuttle; our footprints in the mud alongside the chickens’.
There is a trade-off for laundering in paradise. Schlepping the wet clothing back uphill to the covered lines, yoked over the shoulders.
Totally worth it.
Agrarian and domestic toil may only appear harder as their true genius is kept secret. Fifteen hours of laundry strengthen bodies and determination. Corn harvest pulls us together for weeks as we shuck and grain and retell old stories. Eating homegrown and foraged meals around a fire under a canopy of stars fills more than ravenous bellies. Today is always a great day.
In the last minutes of consciousness, a reflection of the day fills me with accomplishment for all the work that was done. Gratitude that no one was injured, no animals fell prey, and for the rainy hours, we three spent on a 500-piece puzzle of mushrooms, ferns and blackberry bushes.
Before succumbing to exhaustion, I reach for my husband’s hand, both raw from work. My mind isn’t on tomorrow. Only the songs of the tree frogs while a swollen river babbles on about cycles, flow, and human’s faulty need for predictable permanence.