Total Eclipse of the Garden

blackout bed covers

I couldn’t resist the title. There is a full moon lunar eclipse in Scorpio tonight.

Let’s see what’s going on in the garden. 

A proper understanding of how big my house and garden are hit me about two weeks ago.

When we moved in, we were both employed, and we hired someone to trim and repair things as we needed. We did a little remodeling and painting but little if any preventive maintenance.

Now that I’m here all day long with little extra cash for hiring help,  I’ve taken a close look, and there’s A LOT of work to be done. I was overwhelmed for about a week. The result was not work, but reading.

I read my journals from Mexico. I remembered I know how to garden, which was reassuring. And that I can fix all kinds of things with just sticks mud, sweat and perseverance. I was reminded that a good deal of what I accomplished while living in Mexico, I did alone. I give him most of the credit, Felipe is a rock star, but he was often working; he had his fires to put out or was too exhausted to care about every need of our homestead. I could not have done without him, but I did become quite self-reliant.

If you don’t journal, I recommend it.  To have a written history available to you, biased or not, is invaluable. Buoyed by my records, I got back to work.

The first thing I did was clean and organize the bodega. I found essential tools I thought I was going to have to buy. The machetes need sharpening, I’ll give it a shot with my stone, but I think they need a pro.  I hope to find an afilador with a bicycle attached to his wheel!  I promise a picture if I do.

Gardening tools Nicaragua

Tools unearthed in the bodega!

Then I rounded up all the bricks, roof, and floor tiles I could find and carried on with covering the beds in plastic to kill weeds before I plant on the new moon. plasic covering to kill weeds

More overwhelm set in when I realized how many weights and bags it would take and that I still had to cut all the posts and PVC for the row covers. I’m doing this with my jeweler saw.  Yes, you can cut rebar with a jeweler’s saw, but I hope the hacksaw I found in the bodega will be a better option. I’m going through a lot of blades.

Yesterday, I took the day off and trekked out for supplies, including a stop at our local thrift shop. Finding this excellent gardening hat and long socks for my boots helped get me back to the beds today. They make me look like Gilly, but,  this is a killer hat, and no boot rash is a big plus.

More improvements! Most of what I’ll put in will be direct seeded, but I have these fancy new seed pots made of tofu containers. They’re a significant upgrade from the pizza boxes.

seedlings

Tomatoes in the tofu boxes, and volunteer chilis and papayas.

Something I’ve learned about housing and gardening is:  there will be trial and error.

A few examples:

Our roof needed repairs, and it was cheaper to put a new roof on top of the old one. They’re both made of corrugated roofing sheets.  The original is fiberglass, and the top layer, the one we installed, is corrugated tin. Felipe thought it would be too hot for an animal to nest between the two.

Guess what bats hate: wind. Guess what bats love: heat. Our roof is a bat condo. I got a sonar bat repellant, and it works-mostly. I also installed a bat house. It’s unoccupied. Why live in a box when you have a condo?

The previous owner left us many fabulous trees. But now they’re so huge they’re blocking out the sun of the citrus trees.  I’m left with a sad dilemma of what wonderful trees to cut down. I’ll start with some serious pruning. Hopefully, it will be enough.

Mother addressed the issue of my surami cherries gone wild. She’s ruthless!

 

The small kitchen garden is now in full shade, and little is prospering. It is a winter garden. The tomatoes, which will not grow without enough sun, are too big to transfer.  I’m hoping the herbs will not need to be moved…vamos a ver.

My final garden fancy for the week.

Years ago, I got it in my head that Central America should have Papasan chairs. I wanted to grow bamboo in Mexico and start a cottage industry. Felipe wasn’t hot on it, probably because he was working a grueling full-time job, growing his own crops, and raising pigs. But, I still think it’s a grand idea, and 3 years ago I bought these black bamboo plants.

Black Bamboo, Nicaragua

The crowning glory of my garden.

This plant was about two feet when I bought it, and is now over 20 feet tall. And it has over 20 corms.  It looms in my sunset view and makes me happy every time I see it. I have four others. When the dry season returns I will cut enough to dry and learn to bend bamboo.

There are many bamboo benders in Catrina, but I’ll probably learn how to do it from youtube videos. It’s how I learned how to butcher.

The full moon is a time of illumination, but what is it when it’s dimmed or blocked from sight? Darkness when we expect light is an opportune time to look within.

Today is a perfect day to get your hands and feet on the ground. Dig in your garden, pull your potted plants out for a sunbath, and walk the dog barefoot in the grass.

Do your work, wait for the light, and plan your papasan.

Abrazos,

A

Present Pictures

I struggle with images. I see things I want to keep and share, but I feel when I capture a moment, or I’m thinking about taking photos I’m no longer as present as I want to be.

Moss Brick

Moss Brick, I love moss, this feels like the kind of present I want to be.

Today I walked to the store. I didn’t take my phone, no soundtrack, no texts, just me walking, being in town. I saw so many amazing things!

Bueys on playa Popoyo Nicargaua

Different Bueys, Another day.

I was bummed I didn’t have my camera.

This is what I saw:

five young boys on a buey cart bickering over who got to drive, a red aproned woman sweeping her dirt stoop of bright yellow flowers that fell in the night, men selling flower plants, carrying them in big sombreros on their heads. Imagine this full of flowers 🙂 Vintage Authentic Mexican Sombrero Bread Basket | Basket, Bread basket, Wicker laundry basket

Roses bought from a street vendor.

I bought these lovely roses from them. They actually smell like roses!

It was so beautiful!  I’m sorry I can’t show you.  The flower guys would definitely have been up for a photoshoot.

Some of the magic was the ambiance.  We had a slow, lush rain last night.  It was early, people were just starting to stir.

It’s the first week of rain, right before we go full-blown tropical. It was still, and fecund, like a secret on the cusp of revelation.

From my balcony after the rain.

Here are a few more moments I saved this week.

A portrait of Nicaragua’s national bird. The Guardavaranca.

Mot Mot

There are many guardas on the path! I see at least 2  every time I walk.

I also see monkeys on my daily walk! This is a howler, they’re aptly named.

Howler Monkey, NIcargua

Mono in the morning.

I try to get to the beach once a week, it’s a 15-minute walk. I lived here for 3 years and hardly ever went to the beach. There was always something that needed to be done, or I was lazy. A couple of months ago I realized living near the ocean without making it a regular part of your routine argues a life not well-lived.

Sunset with my friend

Me and my friend Isabel at the beach for sunset this friday, our weekly ritual.

There was a huge swell!  No surfers, which is unusual. Isabel had to reassure me we would not be swept out to sea. As cancer, you’d think I’d be more ocean-friendly.

boats sunset Nicaragau

Sunsets in Nicaragua deliver. Playa Jiquiliste, Nicaragua

Coming soon, garden updates!

Paz,

A

What’s your take on taking pictures? I’d love to know how you manage your media and stay in the moment.

Happy May Day!

When I was a child my mother and I made May Day Baskets with construction paper, and pipe cleaners, Quite a bit like these.

Spring Craft: Colorful May Day Baskets | May day baskets, Spring crafts, May crafts

Early in the morning, I’d pick violets and dandelions. Some springs there were bluebells. Mom popped corn. We filled the baskets with flowers, popcorn, and candy corn, then left them on our neighbor’s doors, rang the bell, and ran away.

It was so fun, I hope someone still does this, please tell me if you do.

This has been a long winter, even in the tropics with no snow and plenty of sunshine. The last six months of life have been a series of painful and difficult changes, for me and many others, I think it’s a collective shift, for growth. The growing pains have not been metaphorical.

Finally, it feels like spring. Renewal, light, and hope, are creeping into my thoughts.

I’m celebrating by starting the garden!

First I moved about 30 wheel barrels of compost to the bed I will plant when rains come in earnest.

Moving compost

See the wheel barrel way at the end? It’s a big bed. The board is a little bridge to get me across an irrigation trench.

I took a break in the heat of the day and walked to the store behind a wood cart pulled by two huge, gorgeous bueys. I could have gone around but remembered both the sun and moon are in Taurus today, so allowed the bueys to put me in that slow steady energy.

On my way home, a boy and his mother were selling simple handmade petates. The boy ran up to the houses seeking sales, the mother trudged along with the bulk of the mats balanced on her head. The petates weren’t woven like ones I have seen before, but long strands of grass bound together for sleeping on the ground.

It was touching, and sad. And beautiful. I don’t know if I’ll ever understand this emotion, of life suspended between beauty and pain. It doesn’t have a name, bittersweet is not sufficient.

Compost filled bed

The bed full of compost!

I doubt these are compelling images for most, but I so enjoyed doing it that I had to share them. The compost is beautiful. It smells delicious. After I put it down I broke the chunks with my hands and spread in over the bed.

I finished as the sun was going down. I felt exhausted in the best way, a little weak, with a spotless mind. I felt clean, though I was filthy. I lay back on the bed and watched the sky go dark. For the first time in a long time, I felt how much I love my life.

Paz,

Abby

How To Enjoy Your Visa Run

Wind field Nicaragau

Wind field, on Lake Nicaragua, with two volcanos.

I’ve been living on a tourist visa, first in Mexico, now in Nicaragua, for 15 years. Why? I hate dealing with bureaucracy, I’m lazy, and I like to travel.

I’ve made upwards of 50 visa runs during my ex-pat life. Some to exotic locales where I stayed in fancy hotels. Others, I have touched down in a major city in the middle of the night with only bus fare to reach my final destination.

As I build my new business, I am going the utilitarian route, which means walking through borders and staying in cheap hotels, but not so cheap I have to share a bathroom.

This weekend I went to Costa Rica. Sounds Exotic? Not so much. Still, a change of scenery did me good.

Some people do a visa run by coming and going in one day. But, I know someone whose passport was improperly stamped doing this, they were forced to get residency or leave. It cost her a fortune and much stress. So, I always leave the country for at least 24 hours.

Penas Blancas, Nicaragua

The scenic walk between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

This is what it takes to do a 48-hour visa run, on land through the Nicaragua, Costa Rica borders.

FAQ: Do you have to speak Spanish? I suppose not, there’s usually a helpful bilingual traveler around. But it does make it a lot easier. The immigration officers on land borders in Central America seldom speak English.

The day before I left I  sent the required health form to enter Costa Rica. I presented the QR code sent to me by the Cost Rican government while crossing.

I also tried to send the entry form for Nicaragua but it was glitchy, it wouldn’t take numbers in numbers boxes, so I couldn’t send it. During this essential online preparation, I was having a particularly bad internet day.

I was stressed because visa runs can be stressful in general. When you have lived on a tourist visa for a long time, the immigration officers often harass you about it. I’ve never been denied a visa, but I’m aware that a visa is a gift, not a right.

So, I crossed my fingers that not having the entry form on file wouldn’t lead to an interrogation upon my return. The next morning I took our car with a driver to the border, an hour and a half from my home.

Dubious car wash poppers.

There have been big changes since I last crossed at Peñas Blancas. The Pan American  Highway that runs through both land borders now has two extra lanes on the Nicaraguan side.

There are no longer miles of semis waiting along the road, causing delays and dangerous passing practices. It also has a new immigration building, and a nicer bathroom, kinda, you still have to flush with a bucket…but it is fresher.

What’s lost are the people, the hawkers, and hustlers, the blue-eyed guy who sold us a bus ticket, or helped us get copies(when that was still a thing), and the hot as hell ramshackle market. From this traveler’s perspective, it’s lost its charm. I wished I’d taken a picture of the challenging, comical chaos it was.

I wasn’t able to buy a return ticket Costa Rica requires until I got to the C.R. side. It was a little disconcerting since I didn’t know if I’d be able to get one until I was standing in front of their immigration building. The ticket cost me 26$, but the value printed on it was 15$.

I wasn’t able to use it to get into Liberia, my destination. I hoped I might use it on the way back. I hopped on a public bus after buzzing through immigration.

My wise neighbor advised me to call for an appointment for the PCR test Nicaragua requires, and in a couple of hours, I’d been tested and had eaten some disappointing poppers in a car wash. Why did I eat in a car wash? There was a chair, a fan, shade, and food.

Divine timing had me waiting for my test on the same corner as my favorite thrift shop. I picked up a fab dress, two lovely pairs of pants, and a top for less than 20 dollars in less than 20 minutes.

eci dress

Said, fab dress. It feels like stretch silk.

My hotel wasn’t nearby so I took a cab, I’d walked a lot, it was at least 90 degrees. The cab was cool, clean, and cost 2$, for about a 10-minute ride.

I don’t not recommend the place I stayed, but there are better options, so we’ll skip it. The next day I had a decent included breakfast, with a fried hot dog served as breakfast sausage, and very good coffee, available at 6 AM. Win.

I walked downtown to the bus stops, tried to make use of my bus ticket, no go, and got back on a public bus for 2.80$. The windows were open and the one next to me had a grating rattle, I rolled up the 26$ dollar ticket and shoved it into the window rim to quiet it. Two hours of that rattle would have made me bonkers, 26 bucks well spent.

An hour and a half later, we stopped in front of immigration, I went in, looked around for customs forms, there were none so I got in line. When I got to the front the attendant asked for a custom form. She sent me off to the office, which was through the big trucks down the hill to a tiny kiosk painted green with childlike abandon.

Look wayyyyyy back to the small window in the green wall, over the Pan Am intersection between the semis, where the woman who seems to have no affiliation with the government waves and calls to you, walk down the steep gravel path at least 500 meters from the immigration line. You made it!

The woman in the window took a picture, I don’t even remember what of, and sent it back to immigration. I climbed the hill, thinking, I can’t imagine what this is going to be like when the rains come, and passed through Costa Rica’s border smooth as a bossa nova.

A five-minute walk and two armed checkpoints later, I was back at the Nicaraguan border ready with my dollar for the line ticket lady(yep, they charge a dollar to stand in line).

A handsome young man with a laissez-faire air barely asked me a question. He stamped my passport and sent me into another three months of life in Nicaragua. I thanked him sincerely. He looked at me like I was from another planet.

I walked toward the place my driver would meet me and was thrilled to see some of the cobbled businesses still intact along the roadside.

Today’s plato, Pollo con Papa, grilled on a brazier made of a tire rim.

. I bought an apple juice and basked in a wave of gratitude for life in all its grand possibilities.

Imagine this, an image I did not take out of respect. The most beautiful moment I saw during this trip.

A home made of corregated tin, and random boards, right off the highway on the land between the two countrys. Next to the house, a battered but full, blue, hard sided plastic swimming pool. Three children splashing, laughing, stop as I walk by, we wave.

 

Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear your border crossing tales!

Paz,

Abby

P.S, Mil Gracias, to you my friends who bought me coffee, for helping me keep images in my posts.