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.



Joy of Being

Entry four of four: I would like to introduce you to my husband…

When the rains came the well filled with mud from the torrent of the swollen creek. We hadn’t built a sufficient retaining wall around it. It would have to be cleaned, Felipe would need help and I was it. We pumped as much of the water from the top as we could without filling the pump with mud. There was a meter and a half of sludge in the bottom, Felipe lowered himself in and started the process of removing the sludge, one bucket at a time.

He attached the bucket to a rope and pulley; I heaved it out and filled the wheel barrel. While Felipe refilled I walked the mud over to the shore. It was the worst and most difficult work I have ever done. It took two days, five hours a day. The mud in the well smelled like rotten fish and was black, gritty and slimy. I stood barefoot in the creek for hours; I couldn’t wear shoes because they were immediately sucked of by the mud. The wheel barrel was so heavy I could barely move it, I repeatedly slipped and stepped on sharp rocks, and thorns. I was covered in stinky, slimy mud that the bugs were crazy about, and was stung by wasps that got stuck in my gross coating. If I tried to shoo one from my face I got disgusting filth on my head. I became so waterlogged chunks of skin fell off my feet. Continue reading

Digging the Well Deep

Entry three of four: I would like to introduce you to my husband…

With Don G gone and our money going fast not to mention that Felipe was not employed,  he decided to finish digging the well himself. It was time for me to return to renew my visa, so I was away the month it took him to accomplish this feat, which I consider to be the prime example of what my husband is cable of. He worked six days a week, 8-10 hours a day. I have never known anyone as focused or determined as Felipe. If he tells you that he will do something, and it is physically possible it will be done.

He entered the vertical stone cave every morning to chink away at the rock face. It is cool and quiet in the well. He found the work meditative and the quest for water a sort of grail. The absolute necessity of obtaining it made him even more ardent than he usually is. As he dug the floor of the well filled with the debris and water. At intervals his work varied as he filled buckets, climbed up the rope he used to enter and pulleyed out the excess stone. In and out he climbed removing the surplus one bucket at a time. This is staggering to me, his ability to steadfastly dig a hole, three meters deep, two meters in diameter into solid rock, day after day , with no assistance. He was also doing all of our house and farm work, since I was away. We talked on the phone a few times and he would explain with great excitement a trickle of water or that there had been two inches more to bucket out in the morning before he could begin. I regretted not being there to help and to share the experience. I imagined him striking the mainline and shooting out of the well on a jet of water, cartoon style. It saddened me I would likely miss the moment.

It was not quite that dramatic. Mid-morning, day 30 he began to feel a drip on his neck, wiping it away he didn’t think much of it because he sweated copiously in the humid tube. Then he realized it continued in a rhythmic fashion and he look up to see a spurt of water coming from a cleft in the rock. He started chipping away at it, a stronger pulse came and then a stream. He told me he started screaming. I imagine his barbaric yalps ricocheting of the wells walls rolling down the creek bed with the energy of a breached dam. The next day the well was half full; within a week it was full and has been for the last 5 years. We have water year round, enough for our household; livestock and a small vegetable garden.

Water Rules

Entry two of four: I would like to introduce you to my husband…

They were all impressed with the water they could sense on our land. They started to chip away at the stone Guerillmo had chosen as the portal of our well, and to tell stories. I was sorry I could not understand better, my Spanish was quite rudimentary at the time. I could tell by the inflection and dynamics of their speech they were experts of oral tradition. This is some of the wisdom I gleaned.

Water Rules:

  • The best wells are dug by hand, the tools used are, pica (pick axe), cunjas( metal spikes) and a marro(small sledgehammer)
  • Dynamite should never used because it can disrupt the course of the water and make your well unstable.
  • You should never hoard your water because it will go away.
  • Use it as much as possible and give it away.
  • Water is sensitive to envy.

Don G. was certain that within a meter of digging thru solid rock it would turn to sand, the work would get easier, faster and would be worth their effort. He was right about the water but he was wrong about the rock. After two weeks of digging thru solid stone they gave up on our well. It wasn’t cost effective because they were paid by the meter, and the going was too slow. Don G disappeared, a couple of the men on his crew continued to come until they had dug three meters, where they stopped though had been paid to dig another meter. We had water but it was not enough to make it through the dry season.