After the corn is harvested, it is laid out to dry completely then milled to make feed for our animals.
It’s easy in a modern world, to discount the effect one person has on the environment. The trash truck comes and hauls away the trash. The sewer flushes away excrement. The wind blows away car exhaust. The immediate surroundings remain clean. Now suppose all those conveniences are taken away. There is no trash truck, no sewer, no filter to clean the water, no running water for that matter. Would a person reexamine how he or she lives and make an effort to be more mindful in green living? Well, it depends on the person I guess.
Once upon a time, in a previous life, I thought I was more or less living “green.” I would go to the grocery store, pick up organic produce, buy organic canned and packaged food, use a filter for my water tap, use organic clothing when it was on sale, separate recycling and drop it off at the local bins, piddle with plants, use cloth bags and pat myself on the back for being concerned with the environment. Silly girl!
Now I live in an alternative life, where there is no choice but to be green.
When I go to the fruteria (fruit and vegetable store), I have only one option–local in-season produce or nothing at all. While not necessarily by choice, I am reducing greenhouse gasses since the food travels a relatively short distance to reach the market. I also do not contribute to pollution and waste caused by packaging and processing. All the fruits and vegetables are in their natural, ripened state, ready for purchase by the kilo, not can. I use a canvas bag for shopping whenever possible, not because it reduces the plastic bag waste residue (although I’m all for that) but because I am charged 50 centavos more for the bag, and these days every peso counts.
Corn and beans are a staple in the diet here, both for animals and people. Corn tortillas are a part of every meal. The Mexican government controls the corn prices. Of course, that means that inflation is unchecked. Since we arrived, the price of a kilo of tortillas has gone from 6 pesos to 13. Bodega Aurrera (a branch of Wal-mart) is mysteriously allowed to sell tortillas at a price below the federal mandate and offers a kilo for 8 to 10 pesos, but their tortillas have the consistency of cardboard.
With the prices of seed corn rising every season, it is now cheaper for the tortillerias (tortilla makers) to buy corn flour imported from the U.S. where Monsanto rules. As of 2005, Monsanto has garnered permission to sell their GMO seeds in México, overriding farmers’ protests. It really is only a matter of time before economics destroy the legacy of corn in the land where it was first cultivated.
My husband with Red preparing the field for planting.
So in order to maintain ourselves, we’ve had to expand our own cultivation. The growing season for this part of México is from June until November when the rainy season starts. So in June, we plant corn, beans, and squash on lotes prestados (borrowed lots) with a sort of sharecropping deal in the traditional way. The beans grow up and are supported by the corn stalks, and the squash plants fill in the ground between the stalks. We grow organically because every bit of the plant is used as food for ourselves (squash flower tacos are super awesome) or our animals (rastrojo is ground dried corn stalk and feeds our goats and horses through the dry season).
A liter of milk now costs 11 pesos, and a kilo of eggs (about 8 or 9 eggs) costs 30 pesos. There was a recent outbreak of avian flu among the commercially raised Mexican chicken population. Beef and pork products are “eat at your own risk.” It’s only common sense that for our own health and pocketbook, we look for alternatives. We drink raw organic goat’s milk and are provided with organic eggs and meat from our own mini-ranch.
The Mexican government has a full-scale advertising campaign aimed at the conservation of water. Mexicans are advised to turn off the shower while they soap up. Bathtubs are a luxury nearly unheard of. Washing cars or watering lawns are simply not done. Millions of Mexicans still live without running water. Our own community of La Yacata is one of those areas. So water conservation is not merely of a matter of turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth. We take it seriously.
Our cherimoya tree in the back yard is watered by a pipe that brings wash water from the second floor to the tree roots.
El agua es bendito. (Water is Holy). We reuse nearly all of our gray water to water the fruit trees and plants in the backyard. We have orange, lime, lemon, cherimoya, mora (blackberry), peach, and granada (pomegranate), chayote and guayaba. Our animals do not have standing troughs but are given portioned servings of water. We do these things, not necessarily because they are good for the planet, although that is a great reason, but because the cost and effort of replenishing our water supply are extreme.
Filling our drinking water container from the natural springs in a nearby community.
At the same time, the government is encouraging water conservation, it reiterates that the water from the tap is not drinkable and everyone has to use bottled watered (sold by the Pepsi and Coke companies). A garafon (container) of water costs between 17 and 21 pesos. Sometimes, that’s out of our budget. So we go to presas (springs) in nearby communities and fill our garafon (container) from there. Until you have survived your first bout of churro (diarrhea) from drinking dirty water, you will never understand the importance of keeping the water supply clean.
How clean is your water?
Plastic can be sold to recycling centers here in Mexico however it pays so little per kilo that you have to gather a lot to make it worthwhile.
The trash tractor does not come to La Yacata for daily pickup. So what do we do with the garbage? Organic trash is given to our animals, no waste there. Anything metal can be resold for a few pesos as fierro viejo (old metal) to places that reuse and resell it. We have even gone hunting for scrap metal to resell when times are tough. Plastic trash is a problem, though. Although there are now places that will buy plastic to recycle, it pays so very little that only the most desperate junta botellas (collect bottles). We try not buy plastic in the first place, to reuse bottles when we can, or we are forced to burn them. Yes, this causes air pollution, but we haven’t come up with a viable solution to this yet.
Our neighbor, who has only lived there about a year, has contaminated his immediate environment (and ours) with his plastic trash. This is a problem for us, for it is always possible that one of our curious goats may ingest a plastic bag which will kill it. The trash heaps also attract coyotes and wild dogs and rats. I guess he’s just not too concerned with green living.
Moto-cart. Just the thing for transporting!
The Mexican government also regulates the prices for petroleum and gas prices have steadily been increasing. We have a truck, however, more often than not, we do not have enough pesos on hand to fill the tank, so it just sits there. Our everyday transportation consists of motos (motorcycles), my husband and I each have one. Using a moto cuts down on emissions, which is great, and provides other benefits like more money in the pocket and easy parking. I love my moto.
It seems to me that in general, people do not get excited until a dump is opened in their neighborhood or a factory that contaminates the water supply is built down the road. Then the “not in my backyard” motto unites the community into looking for different options with active protests. I admit to having been one of those people in my previous life. I did the least bothersome and let someone else worry about the rest. However, it’s been made clear to me that my “backyard” is larger than I imagined. In La Yacata, living green is an economic necessity. The price for contaminating the environment is too steep for us to pay. How about you?
- Green Renovating: A Lot, A Little, Not So Much – Laura at Authentic Parenting ponders about the many things that have an impact on eco-friendly renovating
- Growing Native in My Flower Beds – Destany at They Are All of Me takes the guilt out of her flower habit by switching from high maintenance flowers to native plants which not only lessens her gardening load, but also benefits the local wild life.
- Baby Steps – Kellie at Our Mindful Life shares how her family became more sustainable, one step at a time.
- A Greener Holiday – Sara from Family Organic discusses the overwhelming amount of “stuff” that comes with every holiday and talks about how to simplify instead.
- Forcibly Green–Obligatory Organic – Survivor at Surviving Mexico talks about her family’s evolution from passive to active green and sustainable living.
- Giving It Away – Juliet Kemp of Twisting Vines writes about the role of Freecycle, the giant karmic lending library, in her simple and green living.
- Simply Sustainable – Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses her family’s attempts to live in harmony with the earth by living simply and more sustainably.
- How Does Your Yarden Grow – Alisha at Cinnamon&Sassafras writes about an ongoing permaculture project, converting her grass lawn into a mower-free paradise.
- Green? – Is it about ticking the boxes? sustainablemum shares her thoughts on what being green means in her life.
- Using Cloth Products To Reduce Household Waste – Angela from Earth Mama’s World shares how her family replaced many disposable household products with cloth to reduce their household waste.
- Going Green in Baby Steps – Joella of Fine and Fair shares some small, easy steps to gradually reduce your environmental impact.
- Are You Ready To Play Outside?! – Alex from AN Portraits writes about gardening, and playing in the dirt, and how it’s O.K. to get dirty, play in the dirt, play with worms, for both adults and kids.
- Lavender and Tea Tree Oil Laundry Booster – At Natural Parents Network, Megan from The Boho Mama shares an all-natural way to freshen laundry.