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.


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.



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.



The Politics of Seed Saving

-cleaning corn in Mexico

I have a garden in a foreign land. Most of the seeds came from my home country.

Seeds are scarce where I live. Organic, heirloom seeds are non-existent.  Honestly, I have been moving seeds from country to country for so long I hardly think of it as an action with a possible negative consequence. But when I was called out for buying some remnants from another ex-pats garden that were obviously not native I thought I should revisit my beliefs regarding the practice.  Especially since I fancy, and market myself as a sustainability proponent.

Because I’m a farmer at heart, I’m practical. Sometimes that means using imperfect methods for better or necessary ends. For example, I want to save seeds, saving seeds is a vital practice as we move toward plant extinctions and despotic control over seed banks. It has also meant I used herbicides because I would not have been able to feed myself or my animals if I hadn’t. I wasn’t happy doing so, but at the time I felt it was necessary.

Are these actions reconcilable with my belief system? Probably not, but, being in a situation where I had to do things I didn’t believe in to survive made me wiser and more compassionate.

The likelihood that my organic heirloom tomato seeds will devastate the largely hydroponic Agri biz in my area is zilch. The hope that my organic heirloom seed-saving garden will inspire and feed my neighbors is high. My goal is to make sachets of heirloom seeds available to any of my neighbors who wish to have a garden of their own.

For me, it’s important to consider, without judgment, the necessity that many farmers worldwide must function under if they want to make a living. Compassion should be paramount to criticism.

What feels important to me is a humane approach, to small growers, to outliers, and to the earth.

Dogma should not be doled out by anyone who has never had a cow to feed, or had to grow a year of corn to make tortillas for their family of 15. Even that many hands won’t keep a field clean, and pest-free organically.

Our ever fewer existing small farmers should not be judged by myopic consumers. Nor should they be exploited by poison conglomerates. If there is a threat to agriculture from disease or pests, by importing foreign heirloom seeds, there would be far less if there weren’t vast mono-cropped fields to infest.

If we only bought from small farmers even if their practices weren’t perfect, eventually our support and earth-friendly preferences would encourage them to upgrade to our ´standards¨ and have a fighting chance against the not so jolly green giants.

I’m not a big fan of shipping pineapples grown with irrigation out of season so that parka wrapped consumers can have a bit of sunshine in January, though I won’t judge you if you serve me tropical fruit in Minnesota.  But it makes practical sense to me that if it grows in another country in the same zone with similar conditions as mine, why not grow it? Especially, if I can save the seeds and pass them on to my neighbor.

More for your consideration:

I welcome your opinions.