sábado, 27 de marzo de 2010

Landscaping take 2

Still in the midst of dryness, but i am putting more effort into keeping things green around the casa. With enough tenacity and arm muscle, it is possible to grow in these thirsty days. I was inspired reading about the new finca at La Mariposa spanish school, where rows of crops are currently being planted and every drop of water is hauled in watering cans!

Trinitaria, known widely as bougainvillea, are a ubiquitous ornamental in Nicaragua. Bursting in various colors and tolerant to our drought season, they are an ideal candidate for a beginner like myself. I planted an assortment of colors, including the purple above, pale pink, fuschia, and white.
I envision bright flowery walls to replace the outdated penitentiary look we have right now...
Another attempt at beautifying is an all-natural shade structure. A simple arbor (here a ramada, indicating a shelter built of sticks, ramas) awaits the rampantly vining granadilla, a large variety of passionfruit.
It seems a a gigantic space to fill, but local gardeners tell me that one plant will easily cover this area.
Granadilla produces gorgeous passionflowers and eventually a tangy tropical fruit. I look forward to a shady outdoor patio where I can escape the scalding sun, sip limonada, and listen to the buzzing cicadas' song.

miércoles, 17 de marzo de 2010

we're having eggs now

Rooster or no rooster, the hens are a' laying!
It took the Chicklets a good 6 months, and finally they are both laying regularly! Along with Mama Canela, that's three fresh eggs a day :) This is exactly the reason we got chickens, but after so many months without eggs, I sort of forgot and started to see them as feathery pets.
The young hens are not quite the size of their mom, and are still going through an awkward featherless neck stage. hopefully this is normal?
Way too many people are under the false assumption that hens require the presence of a rooster to lay eggs. Scientifically I knew this was not true, but I admit that after several eggless months, i began to wonder. As I swept out the coop and fed my chicken friends, the old camp song "The Rooster" played in my head. the only line i actually remembered was we're having eggs now, just like we used to, ever since that rooster came into our yard! Silly, and thoroughly incorrect.

Anyway, when a mini egg appeared in Canela's nest one morning, oh happy day! The girls take after their mother in refusing to utilize the handsome laying boxes we crafted just for that purpose, all three sharing a dug out dirt nest on the ground.
The first few eggs from the Chicklets were half the size of a normal egg, adorable! Mama Canela, chicken that she is, initially approached the new eggs as any cannibalistic grandmother would: pecking aggressively. Once chickens adopt the revolting habit of eating newly laid eggs, apparently it is difficult to "break." (the habit, that is). Luckily, Canela did not develop a taste for them and has shown no interest since. whew
And so, unless an undercover rooster is sneaking into the yard when i'm not looking, the myth is disproven, and i am enjoying fresh eggs for breakfast--my compliments to the lady chefs ;)

miércoles, 10 de marzo de 2010

luffa harvest!

Wondering how that whole luffa experiment went down? In a word, SUCCESS!
We watched as the luffa gourds grew and grew, eventually drying out to a yellowish-brown. They then received the shake test, listening for loose seeds. When I didn't hear much rattling, the luffa hung out in a sunny kitchen window to dry out more thoroughly.
Finally, feeling the time was right, I picked and peeled the skin, revealing a lacy sponge within and loads of seeds!The luffa has proven itself in the kitchen, serving to scrape clean our dinner plates and pots. I can already sense that it will outlive the crap sponges from the store.
Look at the intricate weave in there--this is Mother Nature at her finest.It does feel a big rough for human skin, but maybe that's exfoliating?

Even if the luffa couldn't hold its own as a sponge, Chia appreciates the homegrown kitty toys. The fine fibers get stuck in her claws, she bats like crazy, and seeds are shaken out all over.
I'm happiest when I'm making a mess

As this first luffa "harvest" was mostly experimental, there are not quite enough to take to market. yet. In the meantime, I will have to generate some creative packaging ideas. Here's my first one, a surefire hit:

Jar O' Luffa

lunes, 8 de marzo de 2010

WILD. Life

Inspired by the conscious effort of Diana at Elephant's Eye to "garden for wildlife," I decided to take note of which wild creatures share our little chunk of Earth here in Nicaragua. Living in the paradise that is an organic coffee farm, one would expect to encounter loads of local wildlife. In the past few years, there have been reports of puma sightings in our area, which I find scary but also really exciting. As far as mammals go, all I've got so far is the ugly run-in with the possum; and frequently in the evenings we catch the notorious odor of skunk, whose existence was further confirmed when our kitten came home one night drenched in the very same tell-tail (ha?) essence.

We are blessed with an abundance of little critters, such as the gorgeous butterflies that visit the farm during the day and the exotic but elusive moths who arrive at dusk.
I caught these 2 lovers in the middle of my garden!

If we step outside in the evenings, it is not uncommon to interrupt a web spinner unwinding herself in front of a doorway, where the sensor lights are sure to attract plenty of tasty night time fare.
She is bigger than she appears...

Without a doubt, it is the birds whose constant chirpy and colorful presence best characterize our wild kingdom. Who knows how many different species nest and feed and swoop and sing amongst our lemon trees! A cacophonous dawn chorus is a pleasant alarm clock, and happy birdsong infuses the air until nightfall. Ornithologist I am not, my humble observations include woodpecker, mourning dove, whippoorwill, the white-throated magpie jay (hard to miss) and a winged beauty like no other,
Nicaragua's national bird, Guardabarranco
We have at least one pair of Guardabarranco, or turquoise-browed motmot, who you are sure to see if you stroll the lemon orchard around sunset. With good reason, most visitors are taken with Guardabarranco's exquisite colors and long elegant tail. In honor of our national (and local) bird, talented friend and artist Heather beautified our drying patio with its image:Thank you Heather J! My job now is to add woodsy surroundings and other local fauna. As my artistic skills are just about on par with my bird-watching abilities, you understand my fervent procrastination of this task. perhaps as we move into the bowels of the dry season...

domingo, 7 de marzo de 2010

what's growing on?

Despite devastating dryness, the farm grows on! I am holding back on too much planting for a while, as I sharply ride the learning curve of dry season farming. However, with the creative assistance of our long term visitor and farming aficionado, Payita, the farm is not just a dust bowl!
Taking advantage of the shady chayotera, where dense chayote vines enthusiastically climb and twine, Paige established a beautiful bed of arugula, cabbage, carrots, and cilantro.
Protected from the fierce sunlight yet thriving on its nourishing warmth, the seedlings enjoy the ultimate natural greenhouse!
Perhaps you remember the papaya seedlings I started almost a YEAR AGO?? Standing tall at over 6 feet high, the papaya trees are now basking in tropical sun, flowering, and finally fruiting!
The papaya fruit emerges from a pollinated female flower. I was lucky to end up with at least one male plant, identified by the long skinny flower stalks, pictured below, and at least 2 hermaphrodite plants.

A hermaphrodite or "perfect" plant is the ideal papaya variety; although in severe weather conditions, a plant may change genders! Crazy.

The papayas grew fast with little attention, and now provide desperately-needed shade along the perimeter of the garden. Superstars!

The forever hardy congo chili pepper is at home on our farm, self propagating everywhere I turn around. This is the most common chili you will run into in Nicaragua-- and don't be fooled by its tiny size either. Once a congo ripens to fire engine red, hot DAMN!