Saturday, May 1, 2010
Saturday, April 17, 2010
“She’s very... interesting looking.”, “Just to look at her makes me laugh.”, “Nobody can clear out a ramada like Maya.”, and of course: “She’s got a great personality.” All of these quotes have been thrown out to describe our little princess. When we brought home our adorable seven week old puppy, Liz and I joked: “We’d love you even if you grow up to be a mangy, ugly dog.” That, of course, was before she got mange and lost a good portion of her hair to itchy red patches. She has since recovered very well and grown back all of her hair, even if she’s still not the most beautiful thing on the beach (I happen to think she is).
When you come walking or driving up the long entrance to Rancho Sol Y Mar, winding past the campground, up towards the house it’s likely that you’ll be intimidated by the roaring woof of Maya. Head of security, project manager, companion and entertainment all rolled into one, Maya is also known as the “Turkey Dog”, “The Gremlin” and “The Number One Mexican Boxer Dog”. Maya was born in Puerto Vallarta on Aug. 1, 2009 and brought home to the ranch at seven weeks old. Life on the ranch and at the beach is all she’s ever known; tough life, huh?
When not inhaling a breakfast of kibble with a freshly laid raw egg on top or sleeping under a banana tree Maya enjoys harassing goats, playing on the beach and chasing lizards and grasshoppers. Her dislikes include leashes and baths. She says the horses are cocky and claims the baby goats make the best playmates. It’s widely speculated that Maya has a crush on Cuervo, the German Sheppard who lives at El Rinconcito down on the beach.
Occasionally in the mornings when we sit on the hilltop drinking coffee and watching the sun come up to illuminate the Pacific Ocean, Maya will get so excited for the day that she starts sprinting all over the place. Without rhyme or reason, she weaves around trees and bushes, darting between goats and bounding off of any elevated platform she can find. Maya is always up for chasing down a stick or ball but makes no promises with regards to bringing it back to you.
When I head out to work on a project, Maya is right there on my side. If the work becomes boring, she’ll lie down in the shade, or investigate something more interesting but she waits until I’m done to walk back up to the house with me.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Los Chivos are a massive part of life in Mexico, as in many countries. They are extremely valuable to the rural/ranch lifestyle not only as a source of income (through milk and meat) but because when they head out to graze, they do the work of an army of men with machetes. Particularly during the rainy season when plant growth is unbelievably rapid, the goats help keep things trimmed back and trails navigable.
In December, Dan purchased 14 goats as a holiday gift for Holly. Since then, the herd has ballooned to 24. Clearly, Chewy the billy goat is doing his job... We’ve had multiple sets of twins, though we’re still awaiting our first triplets. It’s impossible to capture the hilarity of goats with words, pictures, or even videos (believe me, we’ve tried). Only by spending time with them day in and day out can you truly appreciate their personalities. Some are pushy ‘chowhounds’, others looking for affection and companionship.
In the morning the recent mothers are pulled into a small corral to be milked while the rest wait to head out to graze. Once set loose, they spend the morning combing the 40+ hectares (about 100 acres) for food. They come back around mid-day to have some water and see what’s happening around the house. Afternoon grazing often takes place on the hill next to the house, then around sunset they come wandering back towards the corral. With some coaxing on our part and the help of Maya they are funneled into the corral. When we start clapping loudly they know that’s the signal to head in. Likewise, Maya knows that’s the signal to run behind them, barking and herding them towards the corral.
HOLLY & NANCY
Kids are separated from the herd for the evening so they don’t drink all their mothers’ milk during the night; that way we get more milk the following morning. Newborns, for the first couple of weeks hang out in the “kids corral” while the rest of the herd heads out for the day. The newborns are too small to be out on their own, so they stay in their special spot with plenty of things to climb on and play in. Our goats aren’t sold for meat (they have names, after all) although we’ve had many inquiries about purchasing them for pets as well. For all of their tomfoolery and occasional stinkiness, they really are beautiful animals.
Can I name them all you ask? Lets see... Chewy, Carlito, Gwenyth, Nancy-boy, Drew, Beavis, Butthead, Paco, Leche, Latte, Pat, Emily, Señor Dos, Britney Spears, Kate Moss, Mrs. Toggle-boggle, Crystal, Luna, Guadifoo (named by our two year-old friend Luis) and uhh... five others. Ranch rules clearly state that if you’re here for the delivery of new kids, you can name them so come see us!
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
The journey of our water begins on the main line that runs through Mayto. As the main line winds down to the beach to supply the Hotel Mayto, El Rinconcito and Casa Jardin, it stops of at Rancho Sol Y Mar and fills up our lower cistern (large cement tank). From there, a solar powered pump runs whenever the sun is shining to send the water up a large hill to cistern #2, which is located on a hill just to the side of the house. Next, it runs via gravity to the three hose outlets in the yard, and the house itself. Three different spigots, with a total of five hoses allow us to water all the plants and keep the dogs, chickens, cows, horses and goats supplied with fresh water.
But the fun doesn’t stop there: conservation is a big part of life here. Not only because water is a precious commodity that is all too often taken for granted; but also because if the main line through town has a leak, it may be a few days before it’s fixed and you’ll need to make due with what is available in your cistern(s).
The sink in the kitchen always has a large dish pan in it. Whether washing dishes, washing hands, or rinsing vegetables, every bit of water that comes out of the faucet is caught in this bucket rather than sent down the drain. When it is full, it’s carried out into the yard and used to water plants. This typically means about 15 trips a day out into the yard with a precariously full pan of grey water (try not to spill it on your shirt!). This puts to good use what would’ve otherwise gone down the drain.
Similarly, all our water from the laundry machine is recycled into the roots of banana trees and garden beds. We’ve entered the 20th century on the ranch with a washing machine and are no longer tediously scrubbing clothes by hand! However, all the water that is used in the washing machine runs into a large plastic drum, kept alongside the washer. From there, a small 12v pump creates the pressure necessary to pump this grey water through a hose and onto thirsty plants. What a great feeling to be reusing what could have so easily be wasted.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
So much has changed I couldn’t possibly re-hash the events since my last entry, and indeed I think part of my downfall during “round one” was trying to cram every little detail into blog entries. This time around I’ll be going for snapshots of life here: the way we deal with water, what’s up with the goats?, how’s the garden?, etc.... Hopefully with time and consistent entries, a more cohesive picture of life on the ranch will emerge than if I were trying to write a short novel every time I sat down.
For the the quick and dirty of what you’ve missed: suffice it to say we’ve added a dog, a horse, twenty-four goats, fourteen chickens, an adobe building, a lot of roads, a lot of fences, a new car and a completely new perspective to the picture. In the last six months, we’ve really settled into life here. We’ve become a part of the community. We have a number of friends here with whom we share dinners, we teach an English class once a week to a group of teenagers, we hang out and cheer for Mayto at the soccer games. We are no longer feeling like visitors in a strange and overwhelming place, but rather members of this great little community where life is simple, pure and satisfying.
Lots of hard work and an open attitude have served us well thus far. Getting to know Dan and Holly over this Winter has also improved our situation beyond explanation. We are continually learning more and more about Mexico, how to live here and work towards a self-sufficient life. From here on out I’m hoping to dedicate this blog to creating a window into a sustainable-living adventure on Mexico’s Pacific Coast: Rancho Sol Y Mar.