3 Sisters and Fungus Among Us!

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!

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Collecting Seeds From the Garden

It’s easier than you think to collect your own seeds.  I have collected seeds and grown corn, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers….all pretty easy.  Recently our weather turned hotter and my romaine lettuce started to bolt so I let it to see what would emerge.  I read a new blog today that addressed collecting the seed from lettuce and I was delighted to learn ours was ready to harvest!  Here is the blog post if you are curious.

Here are the plants in full “bolt” mode

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And the final result…..seeds.

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Baby chicks! Well at least one so far

Remember our chicken that we saved from a scorpion sting? If not, see the post here.  Her name is Catarina and she has been one of the best egg laying and bug eating chickens in the bunch. A few weeks back, Ana told me that her changed behavior indicated that she was going to hatch some chicks.

The first indicator was that she stayed in her nesting box most of the day; only coming out for a few minutes each day to eat, drink water and terrorize the other chickens. Apparently terrorizing anything close to her is another indicator.  We have been entertained and a bit freaked out by her rapid mood change and altered appearance. When she finally gets put of the box, she puffs out her feathers and runs rapidly about the yard gobbling up food along the way and attacking the other chickens if they get too close. If we approach her nesting box, she puffs up and growls a warning signal.

I have been staying clear until today when Ana announced that she heard peeping from her box. We both approached slowly and sure enough, we see at least one little chick. Catarina is sitting on more eggs so we will keep posted if more hatch. To assist, we placed a new plank that should be easy for the chicks to walk up and Ana cut an access hole in the nesting box for easier entrance and exits.
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Update: We now have 6 baby chicks and its been quite a large amount of work as I must admit to not being prepared to host the little buggers. The mama is a great caretaker and patiently shows them how to eat and clean. One poor little chick has a leg problem which I researched and tried everything recommended to help it to no avail. I fear for the worse for it. Time will tell as its a tough little thing and tries its best to keep up with the pack but rests to the side when the others are too aggressive. We mainly have chickens called “rancheros” and they are fairly hearty. I may be too sensitive for raising animals. Sigh.
Here is todays’ pic when we let them out in the run for a bit this morning, mama is taking a much needed dirt bath while they try and follow her.
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Making Cornbread with our Dried Blue Corn

I was curious if we could grind the dried corn into a flour or corn meal fine enough to bake so I got myself a grinder, set it up and experimented with various settings. image I found that in order to reach a medium kind of grind, I needed to run the corn through at least 3 times and adjust the grinding wheels accordingly. image image At the end of the 3rd grind, I sifted out the larger parts and put them in the chicken feed.  A search on the net brought up a lovely recipe for corn bread baked in a skillet and after a short time out of the oven, most of the bread had been eaten as it was delicious! image

Visiting Mom in La Penita, Thanksgiving!

A little bit late for posting but….Ana and I drove to La Penita to visit my mother for Thanksgiving.  After visiting her last month, I declared that she HAD to get an AC unit to cool down the house as we find the heat absolutely unbearable.  I was delighted that she agreed and now there is an AC unit for all visitors to enjoy so they do not need to suffer in the hell weather of the coast and all it’s humidity.  Sorry Mom but now maybe more of us will visit.

The drive is not a difficult one as we take the toll roads and they are always well maintained and fairly traffic free.  Ana drove most of the way as I enjoyed the scenery…I love the part where we drive over an old lava flow; pretty cool!  The last 30 minutes or so are the most difficult and tricky with the twists and turns through the jungle leading to the coastal área.  We made it safe and sound with our fantastic Toyota Tundra; love that truck!

The morning of Tday, we all drove south toward Puerto Vallarta and shopped for some hard to find items in our small town.  I had a long list to search for and we did find most items at the various stores along the way including Home Depot.  Yippee!

That evening we joined old and new friends for a laughter full night of excellent dining, tall tale swapping and idea formation as we shut down the restaurant and bonded with one of the owners who encouraged our organic food growing journey.  Since my back was to the wall, I did not even notice the old movies that were projected behind me all night….a fine event indeed; great food, excellent company and a relaxing time.  Here is their website:http://www.xaltemba.com

We also hung out at Petra’s cafe, a German themed place.  Here is her site and all the expats hang out there.  Petras Cafe

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The Good, not so Great and the really Ugly

The Good: it’s fantastic to finally be in our house that we spent the last 11 years or so getting built one part at a time.  Since we did not borrow money to build it, we carved out parts of our bi-weekly paychecks and paid cash for all the materials and labor.  Fantastic as we have no mortgage on this place.  The views are spectacular and when I am outside on a daily basis, I look up and drink it all in.  We are living our dream of growing organic food to supplement our life.  Lovely.

Not so Great: I will admit there are some challenges to living in rural Mexico.  The distance away from stores is challenging and it’s difficult to get some food and items we need.  We learn to adjust or stock up when in a shopping area.  Being away from friends and family is also difficult and it’s far from easy to feel connected.

Last night there was an epic storm and honestly I thought the chicken coop would be totally destroyed with all the wind that hit the house; this morning, chickens and the coop were intact but our pile of harvested beans from yesterday were soaking wet.  Ana and I hauled them into the covered porch to try and dry them out before they mold.

The Really Ugly:  Ana found a large snake in the chicken coop the other day.  Scared the you-know-what out of her!  We called over the neighbor who was kind enough to pick up a large stick and kill it for us.  At first, we assumed it was a poisonous one as that is what he said, however, it looks like it may not have been that dangerous although one that was most likely after chicken eggs.  Sigh.

Learnings:  Clear the long grass and bushes around the coop so animals cannot hide and sneak up on the chickens, put in a cement floor and keep the door closed during the day to prevent further predators from entering.

Pay close attention to the weather and if it looks like a storm approaching, get your drying harvest under tight cover and keep it dry.

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