The 3 sisters are a well known combination of plants that are mutually beneficial; corn, beans and squash. The corn acts as a support mechanism for the beans, the beans add essential nutrients for the corn and the squash helps keep things shady and weed free. Win, win and win! Today we were out weeding a bit in the sister’s area and came acros some mushrooms which I take as a good sign that our soil is alive and teeming with micro goodness. Woot!
Our land where our house is built was an old family plot used to grow corn. Stories from Ana and her aunt confirm that this land, and much of the surrounding land was owned by her Grandfather, then sold off or divided among family members. This plot, roughly 4500 square meters (a little over an acre), was given to Ana’s aunt, and then to Ana. It is a great honor to live on this land that has been in her family for generations.
The soil is not in the greatest shape though and we are slowly composting, using worm castings, bringing in other soil if needed and letting some of it go fallow in the hopes that wildness and decay will add to the quality of the soil. Time will tell.
In the meantime; we want to grow vegetables, fruit and flowers. Having chickens roam about certainly helps as they not only fertilize the soil, they irrigate by digging, eat harmful insects and look cute while strutting about.
I have been researching fermented fertilizer recipes as I read when added to the soil, they can help break up compacted clay soil. Exactly what we need!
The challenge has been many recipes call for ingredients that are just impossible for us to find as either local stores in our area don’t carry them or we are still unfamiliar with the surrounding towns for availability. Seriously. A hunt for something as “simple” as molasses just got silly as people met me with a blank stare. Finally found out that molasses is considered a waste product from local sugar cane producers and used by pig farmers as feed. Frustrating. (We finally found it at a health store in Guadalajara). Plus, since local farmers are not yet into organic practices, we are always told to just go get some chemicals. Blech.
A few weeks ago, I finally found a recipe that has all the ingredients. Today I was able to use some of the finished product for some new plants. Success! It’s a very simple formula….just rinse water from rice, water, milk and a bit of molasses. Bokashi rocks. Plus, the chickens LOVED the leftover curds….ate them up quickly. I think we need to get some barrels to make large batches of this stuff.
This first (almost) year living full time in Mexico has been busy. Currently we are experimenting with different plants and growing conditions for the long haul for more food production.
We have grown and harvested eggs, chicken, 3 varieties of corn for human and chicken food, kale, lettuce, green onions, corn, bananas and beans. Right now we are growing 3 types of heirloom tomatoes; some are ok and others not so much. One type of garlic took forever to grow to harvest time and another is still growing after 7 months. Cucumbers, sweet corn, butternut squash and cilantro are all growing strong if the darned squirrel will stay away from the squash.
3 sisters have been planted this week (corn, squash and beans all together mixed up helps them all grow stronger with the sharing of nutrients, shading ability and providing stalks to climb).
At best, we are supplementing our diet with fresh, organic items but we are nowhere near to counting a percentage of groceries. The growing calendar, soil, water quantity, sun and pests are all different here and I have yet to find quality resources to rely on for organic food gardening in Mexico. Better get networking!
We have a cute, adorable squirrel that sometimes visits our yard. Ana and I love squirrels and used to feed the big mama one in our previous yard that used to beg for food. So cute. Last week I was so excited to see small butternut squashes growing on the vines and I looked forward to harvest time. So did the squirrel. Not so darned cute anymore.
It’s full on non-lethal war now. I tried spraying the squash with chili, but the little devil kept coming back, so now I have switched to placing a row cover cloth over the vines and so far (crossing my fingers) that has deterred the little bugger. A dog would help too…..just sayin.
Plants, animals, soil, sun, wind, scorpions, bugs…..the whole country is a wild mess of poky stuff, especially in our yet un-tamed yard. We debated on how to make at least one part of our yard comfortable and relaxing while reducing the pokiness of the flora and fauna.
Considerations: Time, cost, materials and effort. We are getting older so if we want to really enjoy a space, it needs to get done in a timely manner. Besides, I am a bit impatient. We are retired and on a fixed income but we do have a bit of savings for projects, just a bit. Effort, like I stated……aging. I used to pride myself on the ability to re-roof the house and complete other feats of strength but let’s face it…..there is a point when someone needs to be hired to do the strong arming.
Materials: One cannot simply put down a zeriscape of crushed rock of gravel without inviting a horde of unwanted guests. Scorpions love to hide out in rocky areas. Dirt paths get muddy and when dry, the wind blows it into the porch area and then inside the house. Grass….forget about it. Too much upkeep, not my style and uses way too much water. Bricks or other stones laid out flat; could have worked but over the long run I was concerned about the poky plants making their way into the gaps. Concrete is not my best friend but here in Mexico its used a lot so we decided on leveling the front yard and putting in concrete walkways. A patio area will incorporate our boulders into a seating area and the open areas will be ready for low maintenance plants.