Gone to the Farm
My First Six Months at Rancho del Oso.
Crossing the Lo de Marcos river filled with fish, shrimp, frogs, water plants and heron, getting my feet wet and moving onto a permaculture farm on a dirt country road has been very enlightening both spiritually and mentally. I have enjoyed every minute of every day learning and living in the rural country. Each morning, I wake up early with gratitude for another day of life with plants and animals that look to me for survival and nourishment. I am a caretaker, hopefully… one with heart, enjoying the challenge of living “off the grid.” The longer I spend in this basic manner of living, the more it seems to me that many of the facets of permaculture are not new, but… rather a return to a simpler time that works better than modern complicated matters that can adversely affect a multitude of core natural foundations.
The farm provides so much for me. For breakfast I enjoy bananas from the yard on my oatmeal, along with honey and coconut oil. Throughout the day, I snack on mangos, ciruelas, papaya, star fruit and jack fruit. With every meal I add some moringa (that keeps my digestive tract in good order and regular).
Eventually, I hope to receive eggs from my chickens. There is even more food and non-food items I’ve yet to discover.
The sights, sounds and tastes of Rancho del Oso are basic and yet complex in sensations that can only be appreciated over a period of time. Like viewing the starlit sky at night: the brilliant stars become more vivid the further I stay beyond the artificial lit pueblo nearby. Crickets sing through the night. The flavors of natural food delight my palate in ways I could not capture when saturated in a culture seasoned and preserved beyond recognition.
One of my first tasks on Rancho del Oso, was fixing the gray water drain leading from the kitchen. After digging up the drain line outside, I discovered multiple blockages which took just a little while to fix and redesign a longer lasting way for the kitchen sink to drain and add to the water used in the front flower bed full of cactus, aloe vera, impatience and more.
Although moringa is my main crop, I felt an urge to continue, if only in a small way, the lettuce grown from last year. To my pleasant surprise, the lettuce seeds planted in the rich soil with some added, locally produced, compost grew quickly and full.
There were enough lettuce leaves to create bags of lettuce which I gave to Lisa of Granja el Paraiso to sell. The lettuce required daily watering and I hope to grow much less next year. I will have to grow some lettuce as the plants from this year yielded many seeds that beg to be planted in the coming fall. My hope is that the seeds, which now know the lay of the land, will prosper in their second year.
Planting my moringa seeds has been a true joy. Settled in moist trays of wet compost during the new moon of each month, the seedlings appear within 11 days. After a month of cuddling the tall strong seedlings are transplanted to large plastic cups with pumice on the bottom and more compost nourishing the ever growing plants. During this time the stalks thicken and the branches bush out.
After the second month the now strong foot tall trees are transplanted either into large plastic bags or directly into the ground where a hole has been prepared with additional pumice, compost, watering bottle, banana leaf to hold moisture and manure to create a winning environment for growth into maturity.
While the trees are drought resistant a carefully nurtured early development environment better fosters a healthy strong moringa tree that will withstand dry, windy weather. Each tree is surrounded with a dirt mound to hold moisture and when the trees reach two feet a support stick is installed next to each tree with a supporting tie.
While called trees, these flexible plants are more like shrubs then trees. The intent is to prune each thriving plant to foster a bush like life. Drainage is key and each step includes adequate paths for water to pass through the soil before any damaging rot is incurred by the roots.
My first moringa blend tea was created on Rancho del Oso. It is a blend of moringa, hibiscus and lemon grass. The flavor, color and aromas are wonderful. Everyone who has tasted the tea has said it is delicious. The best part is that the tea is also good for you which causes me to feel wonderful in many ways. All ingredients for the tea are being grown on Rancho del Oso. I am also growing luffa along with hibiscus, lemon grass and mint.
I am pleased to say that I have gotten into the groove with the solar electricity. Each evening I recharge my flashlight to read books and in the morning I turn on the kitchen light for an hour, enjoying my breakfast before the sky lightens from my part of the world spinning around the sun and I begin my farming chores. During hot summer evenings, I turn on the bedroom ceiling fan for half an hour while I read and get sleepy. Then I turn off the fan and fall asleep before the heat rises again.
Once in slumber land I seem not to care about the ambient temperature. In the morning, after my chores, I take a cooling shower. All in all I remain comfortable and happy in paradise.
As for the shower… I need no heat for the water in the summer months and when it is cooler, I take a shower in the late afternoon when the sun has heated the water in the black rooftop hose which gives me plenty of hot water to cleanse my farm dirt body. With timing and conservation, I seem to have more than enough of what I need to enjoy life.
Speaking of water… the hot weather has given rise to daily watering of the moringa and other flowering plants. I am just keeping the little trees alive until the rains come, but… I see the little buggers, 200 in the ground and 200 in bags for selling, growing more each day and by starting early I feel I will have a jump start on a strong crop for when the rains do arrive. I pinch the top of each tree as it reaches one meter tall. The minor pruning causes the trees to bush out with many more leaves and the trunks to thicken.
The generator which was new 6 months ago sprang a leak in the gas line. I am assuming it was caused by the fact that I did not turn the feed line off between uses. I guess the turn off valve was there for a good reason, jaja! Anyway… I purchased a new feed line and installed it. While for some it was an easy quick fix, for me it was a feat of mechanical ingenuity brought forth from my high school auto mechanics class and my mother’s stick-to-itiveness ingrained in me by my sole parent. Now I easily pump water from the well to my tinaco, storage tank, on the roof every other day. This schedule provides me enough water for the house and farm while not depleting the well during dry season.
To further conserve water I established a thrice use of some of the water. Standing in a large bucket I retain water from my shower. Since I had used shampoo to cleanse myself it seemed only natural to use the same water as the first cycle of washing my clothes. There are two additional cycles with fresh water that assure clean clothes for my body.
Lastly I use the collected water to irrigate some of the vegetation in the yard. What better water than used, cleansed liquid for plants. If you do not agree then please do not wear my clothes or consume any of my vegetation. Living alone pretty much assures me that I am not tainting anyone else.
The casita I reside in is fabulous, there is a large kitchen with a natural cut parota table, a bedroom with a plethora of books and a full bathroom lit by natural light from the skylights. One friend stated that my house reminded her of a Tuscan cottage.
There is always room for more icing on the cake and with that in mind I suggested to my best friend, Christian, that we build a front step. Since Christian is young and perceives me as old, he took it upon himself to build the step with his own two hands. That’s what friends are for.
Christian comes to the house each morning for an English class and coffee. In exchange he helps me around the farm with chores that have become arduous for a senior person such as myself. Our friendship is symbiotic and I am constantly impressed with Christian’s hard work ethic and unselfish care for me.
About the only thing I get from off of the ranch is propane. I want it to last as long as possible and to that end I built my version of a rocket stove outside. With just one match I can start the stove and by feeding small sticks into the flame I can boil beans for an hour without the use of propane. The job reduces the dropped twigs on the property and produces delicious beans. The multiple trees on the land provide more than enough fuel to feed my stove for my eternity here at Rancho del Oso.
The pizza oven is also fueled by the wood on the land which has provided crispy pizzas and delicious moringa nut muffins. The outdoor appliances take longer to heat up, however… the savings in gas costs is well worth the time. Additionally it adds to my sense of self survival and fortitude. My friends joined in on a pizza party that hopefully will be repeated this coming year with more pizza and people.
I am constantly amazed by the abundance of food available to me on Rancho del Oso. The Jack Fruit is deliciously sweet and the seeds make excellent humus. The oranges are tart, but… make for a great marmalade. The lettuce is great for salads. I have moringa on everything. There are two pineapples growing that I hope to enjoy soon. Mangos are dripping from the trees here in paradise, like honey from a comb. The colors are green, magenta and golden yellow. The flavor is like biting into a steak made from thick juicy heaven. I’ve yet to harvest the tamarindo. Bananas are a daily staple. In short, I am eating healthier than I have my entire life.
The beauty of my home is a continual enjoyment. The sunrises are awesome. While watering the moringa one morning a hummingbird came up to watch the water flowing. The iridescence of the blue green color on the bird was spectacular. Paper White butterflies hover all around. I love farming!
My first six months at Rancho del Oso have taught me new skills and validated my long held belief that I love the country. The birds, ducks, owls, parrots, wood peckers and chachalacas sing in morning, noon and night. My dog protects me. My cats share love, chase mice and my new chickens give me hope for the future.
I sit on my bed and gaze out on the greenery. My heart is filled with gratitude with God’s life in all I see. From the smallest gecko to the largest boa snake, I have seen are an abundance of life that reminds me of my short visit on this land that has long been here and will long remain upon my departure. When I was younger I thought I would be found on a running trail at the end of my days. Now I think they may come upon me with a shovel in my hand and a moringa tree at my side.
Thank you for the opportunity to take care of Rancho del Oso and live a dream coming true.