Indigo Curtains…..dyeing is messy but beautiful!

About a year and half ago (maybe longer) we bought some white curtains from IKEA with the intention of dying them to hang on the large, screened in porch.  I thought it would be a good idea to help  keep down the dust from the wind and also shade us from the morning sun.  Since I used to batik material many, many years ago, I wanted to batik a spiral pattern on them and also use indigo blue dye since it’s a natural substance….and looks beautiful.  Think the color of real blue jeans.

I got busy.  Time passed.  I may have grown a bit lazy too.  Maybe.  Whatever happened, the curtains sat here halfway complete taking up space.  Everytime I looked at the bags of folded curtains I felt a little guilty.  Yesterday, I got in gear and set up the dying area.

I changed my mind at the last minute about having the spiral pattern at the bottom be the only decoration and got inspired by recent images of Japanese Shibori style dyed indigo blue cloth; drop dead gorgeous.  I asked Ana to help me accordion fold the curtain panels and then I tied them in 3 parts.  I considered a really detailed pattern but my laziness got the better of me.  No problemo!20150829_125127                 20150829_125110

Messiness was also on my mind as I did not want to dye everything blue in the house or outside.  Where to hang the things while they dry?  Where will I do the actual dyeing?  I finally decided to put down large sheets of plastic in the driveway and use a medium and large size plastic garbage can.  Long plastic gloves come in rather handy too….just sayin.

Following the simple instructions, I mixed up the batch of dye, wetted the curtain panels and inserted them one at a time into the dye bath for about 7 minutes.  As I took them out, I was already prepared for the weird green color (ick) combined with blue as the dye color is initially green and as you unfold the material, the dye turns blue as it interacts with oxygen.  Weird huh?  Kinda looked like Seahawk colors.

The hardest part was the rinsing, rinsing and rinsing some more.  So glad I did not start this project in the low rain season as we would not have had enough water!

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2 panels are complete, more today and a pic of the completed project will be posted later….whenever this one gets finished.

 

 

 

 

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One Year Anniversary

We made it.  One year has now passed and we are still alive.  Most of us.  Some of the chickens did not make it but to be fair, they did not move with us from the states.  The cats are doing well after my paranoia passed about not letting them outside.  It’s dangerous…..scorpions and all that.  They are going outside now and are happy.  No scorpion problems. Click on the words in different colors below for links to previous posts.

Goals met:
1.   Move in one piece.
2.   Build chicken house, get chickensLearn more about farm animalsGrow the “crop”.
3.   Grow organic veggiesBuild planting bed.  Try growing other things. Try againSeedsLearn more.
4.   Have furniture built.
5.   Storage built for porch to contain tools.
6.   Get front yard pretty; at half way mark.
7.   Build new bathroom sink cause I did not like the other one.
8.   Be here to care for Mom if she gets sick, she did.
9.   Be here to care for Ana’s Mom if she gets sick, she is.
10. Move Mom to her cabin on our land….with all her cats.
11. Host visitors, take them on tours. (Susan and Judi were first visitors, did not post anything as Mom got ill the day after)
12. Explore Guadalajara for shopping and fun.  Need to do more!
13. Build sturdy fence between us and neighborsHalfway complete.
14. Harvest our own corn, beans and use them.
15. Get legal.  Apply for residency in Mexico.
16. Learn to use a scythe.
17. Hang hammock on porch.  Relax.
18. Work on cafe/B&B/karaoke….pizza joint.  Whatever.
19. CelebrateHave funMore funAnd moreBirthdaysAnother big one.
20. CookCook some moreDid I say cook?
21. Meet new people.  Do new things.

More things need to be completed of course and we have learned SO much over this past year.
Thanks everyone for your visits and support this past year to our blog.  It really means a lot that folks are out there in virtual land cheering us on and supporting us when things go awry.  Below is a photo of my favorite place in the house, out on the porch.  Ahhhh…….

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Fermented Fertilizer in Mexico

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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.

The recipe: http://www.hawaiihealingtree.org/how-to-make-your-own-em-1-inoculant-and-bokashi/

Supplemental Food Production

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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!

Loving the Squirrel, Hating it’s Behavior

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.

 

Everything is So Poky in Mexico!

 

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.

Cutting Shady Trees to get more Shade? What?

So I have written before about the less than ideal neighbor situation…..and the saga continues.  A few weeks back the neighbor teen was standing on our fence looking into our yard talking about what he could see from the view…..he also asked for our wifi password.  Then sent a friend to demand it.  Definately not normal.  Since the view from the roof and fence looks straight into our living room window, we decided to put up a shade cloth immediately which would have several benefits.

First, block their view.  Second, provide shade for our vehicles and chickens.  Third, Ana wants to plant coffee under the shaded area.  Fantastic!  Let’s see if it works.

We needed to dramatically trim the neighbors overhanging trees first to reduce the amount of leaf formation on the shade cloth.  One pic is Ana doing her thing with a machete or whatever it’s called and the other below is looking out our living room window.  We will use all the wood for construction, bonfires and leaves for mulch.  And in case you were wondering…..I have changed all the admin passwords to the 2 modems we have for our house and for Mom’s.

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