Thursday, January 28, 2010

March 28, 2009 - The Breadmaking Day

March 28, 2009 – The Breadmaking Day
Dona Rosa lives in a little turquoise colored brick house by the road that leads to my farm. As I drove by, I could see the neatly swept bare soil, being scratched by free-range hens and the rustic dome shaped wood fired stove. It looked old, with broken pieces, and sloppy. As this is common, many people build their own oven by laying clay brick alternating with a layer of mud in a concentric shape. A small open for the door and a brick size hole is left as a chimmney on the back. It looks just like an igloo on top of a table. A little shed is built to cover the oven from the intemperies.
But these rather odd looking construction device bake wonderful breads and roasts, and build friendships and gather family members on weekends.
Dona Rosa very often stops me on my way home to give me some produce or bread. It started a few months ago when I wanted to buy little chicks. I asked my mother’s nurse to inquire her about selling me some. She would sell them only if the hen came together. I declined. I got young chicks next day from elsewhere to have them later caught by a predator. The hen was really necessary to keep the chicks alive. Oh, well. I would chat with her when I stopped to buy some okra or green onions. A little camadarie here and there, and soon we were giving each other farm gifts: okra, green squash, ripe squash, bread, hot peppers, wild lemons, and on my part, used Clara’s clothes, stuffed animal, soap, hot peppers. Our friendship consolidated with the mandioc starch making day. As her family worked to produce the starch on our farm, I would cook and serve them some hot snacks. We started to exchange long hot peppers for short hot peppers, soap for bread, and so on. Until I decided that I wanted to hire her to teach me baking on a brick oven. She refused to take money for it, so I showed up bringing the ingredients, a big chunk of herb bleach soap bar, new bag of used clothes, and a ready to bake mandioc starch cookie dough. While my daughter played with her four year old grandchild outside, we occupied the little kitchen furnished with wood burning stove on the corner still hot from fixing lunch. As a good teacher, she directed me step-by-step, letting me measure all the ingredients, mixing and hand kneading the dough. It was a two-step process. First, the yeast proofing with sugar, butter, milk and baker’s yeast, this one still possible to find at the grocery store. The increasing substituition for active dry yeast, the old type of yeast are not as common. This yeast yields a better flavor, being tasty even to eat it as is (in small quantities).
As the yeast was proofing, we fired the stove with a piece of paper and wood from coffee bushes. To my surprise, it didn’t take that much wood. She told me that we let it burn with open chimmney and open door until the outside wall is hot and the woods are turned into gray ashes. The test for temperature is done by laying a few dry corn husks and allow five minutes. If it burned in the meantime, the oven is still too hot. It needs to become yellow for the baking temperature. By seen the hole, I asked about a door. She told me “I got a piece of tin”. It was actually a beaten up piece of a large can that closed the hole held by a stick with one end poked on the ground and the other laying against the tin. As the oven reached the ideal temperature and the dough grew four-fold until occupying the whole baking sheet, the lady swept the ashes using a broom, made with green leaves (so it doesn’t burn in the oven).
A muggy day as it was, the dough raised beautifully. I kneaded adding more flour until I got a very stiff dough, nonetheless dry or lifeless. While dona Rosa cranked the pasta maker, I passed the dough through to make it smooth and flat. Then, I rolled it and cut it into small pieces before laying onto the ungreased sheet.
The roll turned out wonderful. I would described it as a mellow. A little chewy, a little crusty, but also a little moist, a little light, and a little dense. I came home with two baking sheets, another one with cookies, and a recipe for a farm version of homemade orange soda. This soda is orange only in color, as it takes carrot juice instead of real oranges. Added to wild lemon juice which looks very similar to tangerine, and water and sugar, the “soda” is ready. “It even tastes like Crush!”. I got to try. We enjoyed the new concoction.
After placing the pans into the oven, dona Rosa made some coffee. She takes some coffee beans after the harvest for herself, roast it, and grind it at home. The strong aroma, full bodied, sweet tasting with sugar, perfectly balanced deep dark coffee was one of the best drink I have had recently.
I left her house with bread, cookies, persimmon, wild lemons, ripe squash, all leftover ingredients, and also with a placed order of organic chicken (properly killed and cleaned) with cooking directions. The farm hens cannot be fried or it will toughens. It is best cooked with a little water. Older hens go to the pressure cooker . I just forgot to ask her how to make okra salad she mentioned a day earlier, and to order homemade roasted coffee. Under my enthusiasm for natural yeast cultivated in a bottle, she said she will get some from her sister. This is an old fashion yeast that makes gives a different texture to the bread. I also mentioned making smoked sausage bacon bread someday. She invited me to go back anytime I wanted to bake something. I am thinking about building the oven myself. Or we are going to have a time of an endless gift exchanging.
I may have forgoten to mention that gift giving is a normal thing in this community. Every time I visit my cousin or a friend, I take them something. It can be fruits, cookies, a bar of soap. Even if something requires some kind of annoyance, such as asking to teach something, money is not taken readily. It is not usual to be paid for something that it is not their main mean of living. Dona Rosa told me she would charge me only for the second order of chicken. The first one would be a gift. I am not even sure if it’s going to have a second order. I heard that old fashioned free range chickens have a firmer meat. I am worried with the gamey smell. Let’s see how much courage I will have to go from preparing to eating and actually enjoying it.

March 20, 2009 - Organic Horticulture Class

March 20, 2009
Organic Horticulture Class
Today was my first day of Organic Horticulture Class. My affinity with the Gardener’s class instructor and the interest in the subject, made me go to a different town extension agency. Inubia Paulista is an atypical town, as almost the whole town works in a big department store called consumer’s co-op. I don’t believe it is a real co-op, but anyway, it got one of the best stores in the radius of 100 km. Leaving aside the store, the rest of the town of about 3,000 people is a slow paced rural one. My second nice surprise was to find the Baptist Church orphanage with 34 minor boys and girls. It is located inside the town, but it is actually a little farm with vegetable garden, cows, chickens, and pigs. The building is well kept, clean, and airy; the pastor accessible and welcomed me. He remembered my mother who used to visit them very often. “Every month”, he said.
I arrived a few minutes late to the class location, “oh, that place where rural workers go drink coffee”, said my father, having checked the extension agency earlier. The instructor and the young course coordinator, the son of the head of the union, were leaning against the low wall, chatting. We waited for students to arrive when finally we headed to the farm where the practicum would take place, it was almost 10:00 o’clock. (Class should have started at 8:00).
The property owner is a retired steel worker who had once left for the big city and returned after becoming a widower and to take care of his aging parents. He is too very interested in working the land and lives in a nice built house, a mix of simple farm house with a vacation home style. Different from many other typical houses, his place has a large lawn area, garden patches, and an outside bbq grill with a counter, a long wooden table, two refrigerators, and all tiled floor. The interesting thing is a tile covered well just by the kitchen door.
We did a short walk uphill to the gardening area. It was in the pasture land, cleared just for this purpose. From there, I could see the other side of the hill with large trees, one pink blossomed tree (paineira), and a woman pulling a horse by its harness. It looked idyllic. Even though this is so close to our farm, the landscape looks to much more interesting and pretty. The man wished he had flat land like my father. And I wished for rolling hills with a view.
My new classmates are all men. Invariably, many of them older and surely retired. As we waited for other students who had signed up but didn’t showed up, they said it themselves: “we that know a little about vegetable gardening want to learn more, those ones that don’t know much are absent”. All older men worked in the land and know the trade. The first one all white haired arrived driving an old truck with a milk keg on the back. The second one is an old black man telling a story of his youth about choosing a big watermelon which he dropped open on the ground unable to carry; the third man looks European, blue eyes and good natured. He claimed knowing about cooking and gave me some recipes for wild games (boil alligator meat, then season, and then cook). Strange and misplaced people were a young fat man (the coordinator), and his handicapped friend, who helped to fill in the spot; one fat man and another thin and tall that showed up in time for free lunch; besides the owner who put on his black wool cowboy hat on black sunglasses. He looked more Mexican than Brazilian, have also worn tight fit lycra jeans, special for rodeos. What a group! That makes me miss my gardener’s class, which I thought to be too far off the ideal student profile.
As we didn’t have enough number of students showing up, we didn’t have a class. But we went to have lunch, all paid by the program, did some shopping, and I got a ride back home with the instructor.
I learned a few things, besides finding out how the small town people think and behave. First of all, they all seem to have a formed idea about each other. The comments on each other seem to be unavoidable. All negative, unless it was his funeral, then, it would be only praises. The long social chatting run around alligators, frog catching, river eel fishing, goose eating, and so on. I suspect that my presence refrained them from saying more swear words than they would otherwise.
“Listen what I am saying: we are going to have a drought this year. The paineira tree didn’t produce any buds.” Said the European man. The black man agreed. So then they started to talk old folk wisdom in agriculture.”When the star shines the rain is far; if it is flicking it is near”. “If the moon halo is close, the rain is far; if it is far, it will rain soon.” “When the anu bird...” That was the kind of wisdom I wanted to hear. Many are still mixed with the reasoning of chemically controlled agriculture. It is hard to switch the mind so quickly. The principle of organic gardening is the restauration and the maintenance of good soil. No organic agriculture without the soil. Hydroponics or aeroponics can never be conceptualized as organic, as they are not connected to the soil, no matter they use only organic elements in their cultivation.
I reminded the instructor again that the farmers that will bring the change in the small properties are not the old farmers becoming educated, but a new generation that once left and are returning now. Some type of “back to the land” that cannot be called a movement, as it is not a trend, but an individual desire to return to where they came from bringing no agriculture knowledge or techniques, but an intense desire to make up the time lost doing something else desconnected from the natural cycle of life and nature.
April 9, 2009 – Second class
Last Sunday we had the second class; or it may be officially the first class. I arrived late as I knew that getting there at 8:00 o’clock I wouldn’t even find the instructor. As small town it is, the course coordinator (a teenager) and the owner of the land where the practical class is taking reached me while I was trying to find the way to his farm.
Most students and some visitors were sitting around a large table, on a varanda. I noticed how the roof is built, it’s in “U” shape, covering the laundry, the entrance and the bbq grill with a bar. Besides the covering, the outside floor is tiled. This seems rather odd to me, but I have noticed that people are using tiles even to finish the wood burning stove. At old times, it was either brick or cement, at most, red painted “burned cement”.
Little by little, I get to know the students. They don’t look students at all. Most participants are older. Armando, an Italian looking man, always making jokes, behind rounded eyeglasses and denture, told us he was born a curious. He has tried everything. He even raised earthworms. After all the investments and work, when he was ready to sell it, the company that promissed to buy his earthworms closed down. He told me all the details of this enterpreneurship as I mention this kind of business. A black man, slender and good looking, was accompanied by a younger woman. Typical Assambly of God Christian in her blouse-skirt duo and long curly hair twisted on top of the head, she told me she lived in São Paulo, a big city. They moved to the farm when her husband retired from his automobile factory job. Joao, in his turn, told us he was one of the first black man to work there. He has fought racism and discrimination. He said, he needed to prove he was good and just. The awards he received (2 cars) he shared with his team. A Japanese descendant woman, older than me, with her eyebrows artificially remade, almost got offended when I asked if she was related to a family that makes tofu. I think she is way too proud to be in this class, which is humbling by nature.
Disorganized as this class is, the landowner didn’t treat the soil as he was supposed to do. After taking sample for soil analysis, next step was of adding lime. He didn’t. He called the tractor from the association of small farmers of which he is the president to do the job that morning. So, we got to see the tractor doing a job of tilling the soil in a few minutes. I got interested, as the patch I plan to work on it is just a little bit smaller.
My plan is to work simultaneously on my land. I am dependant on a man who works here. If his stepson comes to live with his wife, he will need to move away to his daughter place, which is in another town, far away. This way, we will lose the only worker. But I need someone to collect hay, green leaves, manure to my compost.

Two Wheeled Town

March 14, 2009 – Two wheeled town
When living in Aguas de São Pedro, claimed to be a health town for its high sulfur healing water, I was one of the very few to ride a bicycle around town. I lived less than three blocks from my work place or the grocery store. Most things I would do within six blocks. The farthest place was the college where I used to check out books at their library. It was located on the top of the hill, so I would ride my bike only until I was able to pedal. I parked it somewhere and did the rest on foot.
Living now in the rural area, I take the highway to reach the town. I drive several times a day about five miles to take my daughter to school and pick her up afterwards. It’s only nine minute drive to the entrance of the town. It takes longer driving across it and even longer trying to do a paralel parking on the main street. I never rode my bicycle again.
But the whole town that has nothing to claim about health and wellness, or even ecology, has a great number of people riding their bicycles to commute. Very early in the day, I see them riding old bikes carrying a plastic bag with their lunch. Yesterday, a man was casually pedaling with an open umbrella to protect from the rain. Some give rides on the back, but more often, letting the other sit on the bar. Still yesterday, a man stopped his bike to let a fat woman off. She must have been too heavy to be able to go the uphill.
Most bikers are common people, many of them in their forties and fifties; many are overweight women. None of them wear a helmet or special padded pants. Nobody thinks it is fashionable or ecologically correct. Bicycling is not an option over the car; it’s the only way to move quickly for poor people. In my fifteen student class, three of them ride a bike. If they are younger, and get to make some money, the option falls over a motorcycle. At lunch time, the small town street get busy with two wheel motorized bikes up and down. These ones can go home to eat.
Of the two wheeled one, another highlight for horse pulled car still exists around here. They are invariably ridden by an older man, wearing a hat, long sleeve shirts, and a whip on the hand. The car is made of wood and hand painted by Ciciliati family. No shade for their heads. Many of them are for rentals. Or at least it is written so. These kind of cars are quite common in spite of all the motorization. However, I have not seen chariots in a long time. They used to be made of a man-made material like old convertible car covers. Chariots were for passengers only while carts can also haul rural products around.
When I was a teenager, and already fascinated by rustic life style, I got a ride. A family stopped while I was waiting for the bus and I happily hopped on the seat. It may have been Spring or Fall, as I remember the breeze and light sun hitting my skin. The ride was long, for the dirt road was longer and the horse very slow. The most astonishing thing that I had not antecipated was that the horse would defecate while walking. Nobody seemed to care. I arrived to the town with green speckles of fresh manure all over me for a piano class.
I got to ride on a horse pulled cart some other times, but for fun at touristic places. An experience I wanted my daughter to have.

March 9, 2009 - Mandioc Starch Making Day

03/09/2009 – Mandioc Starch Making Day
It started with my father wanting to extract starch from mandioc roots he had planted among coffee bushes. He was mostly interested in making some kind of Okinawan crackers (Okinawa Sembei). He said, “you fry them in hot oil. The little piece of dry starch becomes big and then sticks to your tongue!”. I discuss with him about the small price of supermarket startch and the huge amount of work and cost in producing something like a potfull of fried crackers. He didn’t care about my observation and went on to dig several loads of mandioc roots and hauled with a tractor. He took two men and all afternoon for the job. It was Friday and end of afternoon. He too tired to do something else.
Next day, my father giving up on the project, asked me to go to our neighbors house to offer them mandioc roots to feed the pigs. Dona Rosa, quickly thinking, told me that even though she didn’t have any pigs, she would accept them to make mandioc startch. I, even quicker, told her to come to the farm to help my father, and she could take her share. I dropped her off our farm, and I headed to my Rural Enterprising class.
When I came back in the afternoon, she had brought her daughter and the startch was in its final processing. Next day, they brought two men and a younger one to continue doing the work. Skinning the roots, washing, grinding, soaking in water, resting, then, pouring water from the big tin, drying, straining, and voila, the tapioca flour was ready. The sundrying of tapioca makes the starch.
I got the first handful of tapioca flour, overheated the pan to make biju (or tapioca) and it got burned, scortching the pan. I switched to a teflon covered pan and re-started the process. Everytime it came out better. I finally mastered it.
First, take the teflon covered pan and heat it. Spread a handful of tapioca flour like would a pancake. Even though it is a coarse flour but wet, in a few seconds, the sides start to pull, it’s time to turn over the cake. Another few seconds. As soon as it looks glued together, it is ready to spread butter, or sweet condensed milk or even dulce the leche. Fold once in the middle. Eat using hands. It can be used as a wrap to cooked cured meat or melted cheese. The filling depends on your taste. The tradicional one asks for plain butter or shredded coconut with condensed milk.
My father told me he is going to do it on his own next time, for dona Rosa did it in her way. He had rather gun washed the roots, then skinned them. Ground, strainned in cotton cloths using some mechanical way (wouldn’t twist the cotton sack by hand to expel the water). After the startchy water was left to rest, he would take the cakes out and let them dry naturally. It was not necessary to dry using the cloths. It would strain the cake into coarse meal, leave it to sun dry, and then, sieve it again to fine powder.
The most ingenious part of all processing was my father’s tinkering with an old saw mill. He used the engine, but replaced the handmade grinder (using a tin from a can) for a saw. The pulp fell directly into a pot. This is a big improvement over dona Rosa’s method of handgrinding the roots, which are sometimes tough and woody. Sure she was happy. She even asked my father to, whenever he is to give up farming, to sell her the tool. I can imagine my father grinning and mentally responding “no” to her.At the end of two day process, I got the tapioca flour, which is a wet coarse meal; mandioc startch which is still put to dry; and a fermented startch which is still in water in the middle of the process. Some recipes ask for sour flour instead of a “sweet”, non-fermented one. I used these two flours to make pao de queijo, a famous cheese bread from Central part of Brazil. With sweet flour, I can make tradition

March 9, 2009 - Butter Making

03/09/2009 – Butter Making
After experimenting with sweet milk paste (dulce de leche), several batches of yogurt, quark cheese (or something similar, a Middle Eastern dried yogurt to be eaten over flat breads with olive oil, salt and raw garlic), sweet cream, I got to make butter.
So, I went to Rossi’s bringing a commercial milk carton planted with three sweet basil. Dona Helena had previously told me that, even being a descendent of Italians, they didn’t have the herb or didn’t eat it. I was in search for artemisia absintum when the subject came about. But today, I wanted to get four liters of milk that come by two litters in the infamous re-used soft drink bottles. When I inquired about butter, she told me that she puts small amount of cream with cold water in the blender until it turned. She would wash it with baking soda, expel the excess water, and salt it. I wanted to know how to get cream. She collects it every day from boiled milk left in the refrigerator, and then freezes it until she has enough for butter making. The gentleman, her husband, told dona Helena to give me the frozen cream. Yes! Another gift!
I let the cream defreeze in the refrigerator, place it in the food processor (not in the blender), added some cold water, and let it run. I used a small amount first, but soon dropped the whole amount of cream. At first, it smelled like butter, but it looked just whipped. A few more minutes, the fat separated from the buttermilk. The butter was made! I used the food processor to wash the butter until the water came out clear. About four times. I just didn’t know how to expel water from it. I then used a cloth. I placed it in the refrigerator, and even though I can see the little wet spots, the butter looks and tastes so much like the ones store bought or the Amish made.
I don’t know how much milk it took to have that amount of cream, but the butter yielded by the cream was just slightly less than the amount of cream. The milk and water were expeled, but I believe, some amount of air must have been incorporated into the butter.
I had butter with homemade, wood fired stove bread made by dona Rosa (brought yesterday as a gift). Later, with French bread from a local bakery. This afternoon, I had it with tapioca (or biju), a gooey pancake-like mandioc starch bread.
The four litters of milk I bought is resting in the fridge without any further project for it. More butter? Or sweet cream? How about the skim milk? Yogurt.

March 3, 2009 - Of Little Rewards

03/03/2009 – Of Little Rewards
Right, I got defeated by my first attempt to an organic gardening. Today I witnessed the weeds almost knee high after copious rain during this season combined with hot days. Of the first patch, I have arugula that went uneaten. I have not developed a taste for it. Maybe because I cannot get more than a few leaves or because I saw caterpillars populating them. The cucumber and beans vines were attacked by either a bacteria or a fungi. They are blossoming now. It’s going to be a few weeks before I see any fruit. The radish and the carrots don’t have edible roots. I had sowed them a day before heavy rain. Some corn are almost 3 feet high, but they didn’t developed well in the main patch. Also covered with weeds. The most surprising of all is that my “high tech” planters didn’t sprout a single seed I sowed in the gardening classrom!
My little rewards though come from young cilantro leaves to season guacamole made with our own avocado, green onions and lime. My parsley got harvested with less than 2 inches to season a Middle Eastern baked pocket called esfiha. A Margherita pizza and spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce took the bottom leaves of sweet basil. Today, I got a few strigs of rosemary to top my garlic rosemary flat bread.
On the animal side, my three Guinea Hens are growing taller and slowly changing their feathers to a bright speckled against velvety black. When they changed all feathers, I shall release them to go on their own. (But I am hoping they stay near the house). I almost bought a few more chicks today. They were only about 7 days old. My last experience with baby chicks were not too happy. I heard (from the salesman) that it’s going to be a while until new baby Guineas come to market as the laying season is over. Let’s see. I need to build a chicken coup first. I also wanted quails, but I didn’t see any today. Only rabbits. These, I am not going to get. Too many “hunters” (dogs with no sense of ownership) on the farm.
03/09/2009Besides the young frail leaves that I get to harvest, the satisfaction of seeing my Guineas growing bigger safely, and after rescuing two kittens from possible blindness and treating two healthy puppies, my other little reward comes from the times that I am outside to hang kitchen towels and I feel the fresh scent of homemade soap. Or when I come back with dirty hands to wash my hands with this soap and see dark lather coming through my fingers, or yet, I shine my pots using soap bar and steel w

March 3, 2009 - Gardener´s Class

03/03/2009 – Gardener’s Class
The local rural workers’ union offers a variety of interesting classes. The first one I took is Garderner’s. It took four days to learn about sowing in planters, the importance of wearing proper protection when working with chemicals, the compost making, and the practice of creating a garden.
I had missed the first course I had signed up for: The Garden Vegetable Processing (into pickles, compotes). I was not too interested for I don’t need or want to preserve food. We don’t have winters so we have plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, meat all year round. It makes no sense to preserve radishes that we don’t even want to eat fresh. Fermented cucumbers, uncommon spices, acidic soft roots...too foreign for our taste. Even though we may try it, it is difficult to include in our daily meals. So, I didn’t who up for the class.
But for the second one, the Union called me. And I showed up after making sure that I could pick up my daughter at lunch time and bring her home.
We were 19 atendees. Most of them men, but nobody was really aiming at becoming a professional. A few were unemployed or retired, seeking to find a job or fill up their time. At least two were over 70 years old. Two women had attended 22 different courses. Some others had 5 or 6 certificates. Of 7 women, 3 were widows and seniors, 3 were middle age including myself, and one younger school teacher. Of 12 men, most of them were in their 40’s to 50’s, a couple in their 20’s, and one older little man who wore hat with lavender shirt.
The first day of class already revealed the “remarkable” ones. A funny skinny man of early 40’s who looked a lot younger for being so humorous during the course. He had given a nickname “Pitbull” to a man that looked like one. It had been a long time since I had laughed that much. Anything said or done, was a matter of joke. Barone was born a comediant, makes basket from bamboos for a flower shop, but works with children for the city. The city encourages workers to take extra-curricular classes for enrichment. So, three of them came because of that.
The instructor was in his thirties. To my pleasant surprise, he is not a local Biology teacher, but a PhD in Agriculture, and an excelent instructor, very accessible to anyone. As I was hanging onto him at all times (I really wanted to learn and solve my gardening problems), we ended up talking more than it would be normal. So, I learned that he is a Christian man. Connection right there.
During the garden implantation on the city property, the older the person, more available he or she was. A 72 year old woman quickly took a hoe and started digging while we others watched. The little man with the hat took an enormous shears to cut branches. I took pictures the whole time. I justify saying that I dig everyday in my yard.
But the highlight of the whole think was, besides free lunch, coffee, snacks, and materials (and laughing a lot) was when nobody could believe my age. I had to show my ID. And, as I left after the last lunch, but before the ending of class, a few women wanted my phone number and one of them even said “we adore you”. Wasn’t it a compliment? Laughing a lot makes other people like you. I love them too. I can’t wait for the second part to start in a few days. But before, I am going to take another class, a few months long, on rural enterprising. In between, there is a “Homemade Bovine Meat Processing” class, which should teach charcuterie.
March 20, 2009
The second part of Gardener’s class took place at our farm. Have already befriended the instructor, he was willing to help me out on my projects.
I woke up before the Banty rooster to bake two yogurt cakes for my classmates’ breakfast. They arrived two hours late, nonetheless enthusiastic. I felt relieved for a few seconds thinking that a 6 foot man wouldn’t come. He was a boy in the body of a giant mature man. Aurelio proved that during our practice. Whenever we smelled tangy orange being skinned, there was him eating it green. Or eating a starfruit or acerola.
Having students at our property has it drawbacks. They sure helped to prune the old orchard trees, but they also complained of unpaid labor, ant on their feet, bee stings, and uncovered subjects in the class.
My father participated actively by gathering all the required materials, building fire for cooking organic fungicides, and even watching and asking questions. He was of big help, making possible for the demonstrations to run smoothly.
I went to prune the trees a few days later, and learned that I had lots of questions I didn’t have earlier. Even that, I got the job done in one of the lemon tree, on guava, camelia, hydrangea, hibiscus. I used some of the paste made with lime and copper sulphate to heal the cut.
I am grateful for all the job done. The orchard immediatly become more ventilated and cooler. The suffocating aspect is gone. Now we can see the soil and its openness. I even got disoriented to find my way around after that. My daughter cried for we cut off the branches that formed her playground and her favorite hiding spot. Fruitful orchard and wildly growing tree skirts can’t come together. Her hideaway got to move away from there. There is no more secretive feeling to it anymore.
She used to mourn her kitty every time she went to that particular spot. I hope not only the trees but her heart is also healing from the loss.

March 1, 2009 - Of Chores and Joy

March 01, 2009 - Of Chores and Joy
My last ten days without MC, our nurse-maid who takes care of my mom and performs some house chores, left me busy from sundawn to sunset. The first thing that I stopped doing was writing. I also didn’t have enough privacy to do so. My brother had come from America to settle our family business and my sister with her daughter came with the intuit of participating of some decisions, but truly they had a vacation time on the farm.
It was late and I woke up to feed Clara who usually complains about being hungry when I am half-asleep. I saw my father’s work clothes and I couldn’t leave them for tomorrow to be ironed, or they would be too hot to be worn. I washed my father’s long sleeve shirts and cotton long underwear he wears as a pajama. Afraid that it would be too warm to wear after being hung-dry in the sun, I placed in the refrigerador for a few hours. Discreetly, I put them back where he left them.
While ironing, a sense of joy with little, repetitive, and endless chores came into my heart. First I thought that God had put joy into my heart for little things, but soon I realized that I have joy because Jesus lives in my heart. Chores don’t give me joy, but He does even through some menial jobs.
Every day I change my mother’s diapers, I feed her into her mouth with a spoon, I give her shower, I put her in bed, it makes me closer to her. The last stroke had left her aloof to our presence. She seems not to recognize me as a particular person. Because of that, when I used to come to visit my parents, I usually forgot to acknowledge her. I even left a few times without saying good bye. I couldn’t have a feeling as I didn’t have a communication with her. However, as the day passes, and I take care of her minimal needs, I am becoming more caring and affectionate towards her, to perceive her as a person. I am not as disgusted of taking care of her as I used to think I would be. A few days ago, she had a major accident in bed. It was about 5 a.m. and I smelled something fowl. I thought the cat had done the job in my bedroom. I went after the smell, and it was not the bathroom sewage back-up. I run into my mom’s bedroom, to find her shaking and all messy with black vomit and diarrea. I started to take her clothes off, when I decided to call my father who was working in his office. When I went back, the sudden smell, made me throw up twice. Then, I went to call MC for help. She took over. Later, I took care of the laundry, my mom’s light food, and all her routine, as MC is on vacation.
Thank God MC will be back tomorrow.

February 6, 2009 - Time and Timing

Feb. 6, 2009
Perception of time is also different in the country. At the same time that I think things go slower than in big cities, it goes faster.
Just a few weeks ago (I arrived here on December 22nd), I drank green coconut water, gathered wild cucumbers, picked green onions, ate carambola, and some pitanga. Then, we got abiu, durian, taro roots, squash, young squash shoots. Now, we have lemons, jabuticaba, acerola, oranges are starting to get ripe, at the same time the there is no more coconuts, cucumbers; carambola and green onions are ending. Mandioc roots got taken twice, but there are lots of bushes to dig before they become unedible. Yesterday, my father brought home young bamboo shoot. He boiled it to take the bitter taste out and stewed with kombu and shiitake mushrooms. The squash vine was full of shoots and blossoms, but it got cut down. I didn’t get to try stuffed blossoms with cheese, dipped in batter and deep fried. I saw green papaya that I could make into a compote. I have green bananas hanging to ripen.
I also slowed down on cow’s milk products such as yogurt and sweet paste making; cheese buying; juice making. I got goat’s milk, tried a sip, and made into yogurt. I will see if I get used to the smell of it. I made kumquat compote. Ate jabuticaba climbing on the tree, as the fruits that were at reachable distance got eaten by cows.
Feb. 9, 2009
Just now, I noticed the first camelia flower wide open and one chayotte almost ready to be picked. Thyme bushes that were transplanted to a sunny and poor soil are greener while the other ones shriveled and died. The only nasturtium seed that sprouted were dying from being suffocated by a crowling vine. There is almost no more healthy acerola, as they got punctured by some kind of critter. The lush green onion patch is now covered with dry leaves. My father said that it is past harvest time. I didn’t know onions had their primes. My carrots sprouted thin and weak. It may be excess of rain.The radish suffered an attack from slugs that eats from the roots as if it was a pizza delivery at their door. I saw the moment it opened its big mouth to pull the stem, and I pulled the radish on the opposite side. I won. But the radish is dead. The arugula also got eaten. It has big enough leaves for a garnish but not for a bowl full of salad. It looks dark green, which means, spicy! The cilantro is the one who is pleasing me the most. I was hopeless when it sprouted and grew in spite of the rain. Purple basil and sweet basil are growing timidly in the pot, but I have high hopes for them. I may make several bushes from it. A cactus looking herb called carqueja I bought from the farmer’s market are growing well. I get to a conclusion that I must sow in boxes or buy plants so the chances of survival are bigger besides that the hard work is avoided. Or I may used wooden walls to stop water from washing my good soil and seeds.
March 12, 2009
Reading my early journals, I feel embarrassed that I have not continue to work on my vegetable garden. It is now covered with very tall weeds, killing was left that could be saved, such as arugula, cilantro, beans. Instead, nature decided to plant something else. Right beside my thriving sweet basil (possibly the only successful one), two unknown vines. I was told it is watermelon and cucumber. Funny, I didn’t sow any over there. Watermelon is also taking my flower garden. With two promissing round fruits, and other several to come, it is crawling over the empty spaces. It may soon suffocate other flowers we planted. Soy are also growing pretty with first flowers. Soon we are going to have edamame - green pods. Of the sunflowers I sowed, only a few came about. I read today that they are used to attract garden insects to protect other crops. I dreamed with fields yellow with giant flowers...
From the time that I got the first bananas, it is possible that many other bunches have been lost. The next one look full but still skinny. I need to keep watching or the time will come and I am not there. I think I lost all the durian.
I am glad I enjoyed pitangas. They are now covered with bugs that suck out the juice leaving a shriveled skin behind. The pomegranate needs care. It carries dozens of fruits, but they may not be good to eat. Lemon is in its prime. The whole tree offers juicy, mild lemons I make lemonade and lemon curd. I need to plan on using more of the citrus as the season will leave soon.
The only thing that seemed not to ripen was the hot peppers I found exuberantly covering (and killing) a coffee bush. They are small, beanlike shape and even smaller, are sold in the markets as a seasoning. I had come back several times to check on the ripening, when finally I invited my neighbor dona Rosa (who came here to make mandioc starch) to gather the peppers. We took armfull of thin branches back home. I am still working on picking them. I should probably marinade them in vinegar. Brazilians usually preserve with vinegar or oil.

February 4, 2009 - Of Mistakes

Feb.4, 2009
Of mistakes, oh dear, I got many of them. Most of them for wanting to take short cuts. I bought several different kinds of seeds, with some of them needing to be planted in the boxes first. I have planted all that could be done by direct sowing, but tomatoes, bell pepper, and about 6 other vegetable seed envelopes are resting somewhere. As much as I could, I try to make a little hole and drop some seeds. But a few of them, I just spread the seeds. I placed the envelope nearby so I would know what it was. I rained, hard. I can’t remember what I had sowed for some of them. But the worst thing is not forgetting the name of the plant, but not knowing if anything was planted on that spot.
1. Not reading the manual closely and remembering the recommendations
2. Not preparing the soil with compost or manure
3. Not observing the season for sowing
4. Not eliminating all weeds
5. Not allowing the weeds grow to be eliminated before sowing
6. Not using planters
7. Not taking notes of dates and places of sowing
8. Not placing tutoring
9. Not observing companion plants
10. Plucking weeds too close to the sprouts and uprooting the new plants
11. Not starting a compost pile or rot manure
12. Watering with strong jets
13. Not combating pests

February 2, 2009 - Improvising

February 2, 2009
Improvising is in the heart of farm life. It’s more of a new use and interpretation of things to fulfill a certain purpose. If it brings continuity of life, that’s a done deal.
I wanted a brick and clay wood fired stove and oven, with a grill and perhaps a water heater built-in. The cast iron oven for sale costs $490,00. It’s more than the price of a regular gas stove. The one made with tin is a fraction of a cost, but still, it wouldn’t last. The grill that holds the pots costs $55,00, but as I had only $50,00 and I was not sure which kind I would need in case I come to build one, so I skipped on the purchase and came home ready to improvise.
I borrowed a broken-in-half grill from MC who had abandoned her also improvised stove. I placed it on top of my barbecue grill fixed by my father after the tin got rusty. Its legs and grill holder are made of iron, and the basin was made of cut metal barrel vertically, but placed horizontally to hold the charcoal. It doesn’t have a top. It works fine for my steaks, sausages, and chickens. When I came to visit and wanted to grill some meat, my father said he would think to find a way to fix it. He, then, walked to his shop, made some banging noise and soon he came up with a cut piece of tin from perhaps an old oil container and placed it on top of the big hole rust had eaten. Voila. It’s in full working again.
Improvising and planning. It a funny combination that walks together. At the same time that we improvise things we need to get going, farmers also plan way ahead of time. Make a compost, prepare the soil, retrieve seeds from the previous crops, and wait for the rain or for the right season. Or to cook out on an improvised stove.
In spite of some mechanization, no much is automatic in the country. Remember sweet milk paste, compote, marmelade, soaps, all had to be watched over and worked on. With my wood fired stove was not different. I placed the stove a few steps away from the kitchen, so the roof or the trees wouldn’t catch fire. Besides having gone in and out countless times, I had to watch the fire and keep moving the wood sticks for the pots to get the right amount of blaze.
I started by cooking dog’s dinner on a larger hole. As the second hole was unoccupied with a fire under it, I placed the smallest cast iron pot with beans with bacon, salted pork skin and meat, smoked sausage, quartered yellow onion and whole garlic cloves. The smell of burning wood and the food seemed like a perfect blend for the end of afternoon. As soon as the dog food got ready, I fried garlic and rice which aroma could be felt at distance. I was wondering if my father smelled it and was coming home from the field speedily.
I learned a few valuable things. It’s great to cook outdoors, just like camping. But the lack of work counter, sink and supplies make it difficult. I had to run back and forth to fetch every single thing I needed, such as spoon, top, towel, water, or even ingredients. In a few minutes, I observed that fire for cooking should be different from grilling. While the latest needs broad fire with lasting red-hot coal, the first one needs a scant steady fire on the tip of the wood. I told my daughter that fire is an alive thing. It’s hard to control, specially if the woods are of irregular shapes and from different trees. I used unpainted construction debris wood, any wood or stick that were laying around and dry enough. I had been bugging my father to hire someone to haul away the sticks and logs from tree trimmings that were piled on several heaps around the house. Yesterday, I was thankful that this job was not done. First, my father told me that it serves as compost, and secondly, they were handy as I needed strong flame.
I served garlic rice, pork beans, sauteed sweet pepper, and ground beef, ham, and mozzarela cheese tomato noodles. It was delicious. The down side of cooking out is the smell and grease that sticks on you along with insect repelent. Thank God it didn’t rain, or the whole project would fail. Shower from head to toe and hit the bed were the best thing after my adventure.. I am not done yet. I am not going to give up in spite of all its hassle. The result is well worth it. It is just spread it out in time. I am planning to render fat and make sweet milk paste soon on a dry sunny afternoon after playing with my daughter. She complains that I no longer have time to play with her. Oh, yeah, farm mothers don’t play with their children like city folks.

January 30, 2009 - Animal Kingdom

Jan. 30, 2009
Animal Kingdom
As soon as I open the kitchen door to the outside, seven cats enter the house, followed by three big dogs, all wagging their tails which hit me hard on my leg. They look so glad to see me. The cats meow crazily, so I rush to feed them, tripping on a dog. Every time I go out of the door, specially if I am holding some sort of pot, cats come out of several cardboard boxes that are left outside, many of them with garbage. Mommy cat, with one blind eye, jumps out of one, followed by a male black cat with white patch right below its right nostril. The stripped black and white, that showed up at our house without its mom, three Siamese siblings, one of them being smaller and not a perfect one belongs to Clara, who named her Chocottone (chocolate panettone). This one is smaller, skinnier, uncapable of jumping up the table where their food is served, needing extra help. Today Clara made an observation that this kitty had a cold a few days ago and took medicine for it, it has a sore eye, and now it got bit by Leon, our bravest orange brown dog. After all the cats have showed up, another black and white mommy cat shows up. She is mellower and waits for all other cats to eat for her to take her turn, not fighting for a treat. She also got a blind eye. I thing there is some kind of bacteria that are making cat’s eye sore. The three (was born five, but two of them disappeared) kittens are still not able to open their eyes. I may need to take them to the vet soon.
So, we got three adults, one teenager, three children, and three infant cats. If I add some other two occasional visitors, that really adds the number of feline at home.
We have only three big dogs, all adults, three puppies, but I also brought one. The dogs are all mutts, but three of them are big, reminds me of a mix of Rotweiler and Lab, while my puppy resembles a dashhound with long legs. The little puppies were born just a few days ago, and at least four of them were lost. I saw a couple of them smashed and dead, and disappearing afterwards. The mommy, Lila (Clara calls her Lye), did something to them I don’t want to find out.
Leon is the ferocious one. He reigns like a king, in spite of his disability. He contracted some venereal disease and became weak. After that, he got blow-fly sore. We tried to treat it, but he – as my father observed – never cries, get really mad, barking and threatening to bite. We use some spray medicine on his behind, below his tail. Very sensitive area. He always sit on the wrong side, not leaving the wound exposed so we can spray. We did it a few times though. My father tied him, washed his wound with a spray gun machine. Then, he sprayed with medicine. Some other times, he got tied with a very short leash against a pilar, then, I sprayed on, as he turned his head to gnar at me, my father sprayed too. Leon cannot hear a metal ball moving inside the can that he runs away. Besides those two health problems, he also suffers from incontinence. His favorite place to be is by my kitchen door (to the outside).
Lila is a nice female dog, lustrous black with some patches of orange near her eyes. She is slender, with narrow face. Her first birth was good. She had ten live puppies. Her brother, Totty, is all black male, happy, clumsy, who hits me with his tail, steps on my foot, and make all the bad decisions.
Mel, a puppy I brought from Aguas, I had adopted as Clara really wanted a dog. As her father had left not too long before, in attempt to soothe her heart, I agreed to get her from a friend. Mel (means “honey” in Portuguese) is of honey color. She used to be well treated in our old home. She took bath, ate good expensive dog food, had toys, colored collar, daily walks, and mainly, lots of people played with her as she used to be so cute. As soon as she got here, she started to explore the gastronomy world. She ate all kind of feces. My father told me she was waiting for the cat to finish it up to eat it. Mel also tried rotten chicken from the coops. Soon, she abandoned her commercial food and switched to a homemade one I make (I hope it doesn’t treat like her treats.)
Besides all four dogs, there is one more to mention. That’s Miucha. She belongs to Maria Cristina. She was adopted as an adult. She can be easily confused with Mel, for its size and color. But her face is so particular. She looks like she is miserable, begging for food and attention. But in truth, she is smart one who follows her master everywhere. Every time MC comes inside the house, to the bedroom, she follows her. As MC is soft spoken, Miucha doesn’t obey. That’s when I come to play. I try to drive her away every time she enters the house. Sometimes it doesn’t work. She pretends she doesn’t want anything and sneaks in, some other times, she plain challenges me.
So, every morning I can’t step out without food. I first serve the cats on top of a table. With three other dogs eager to eat, I can barely find room to put their rice and meat on the first plate, which suppose to be Leon’s. As I am close, Lila and Totty challenge Leon and try a few bites. I serve Totty a few steps away. Then, I need to run to Lila’s house where she keeps her puppies, and serve her plate. As I walk back, Lila has abandoned hers and goes to check Totty’s, or other way around. Then, Leon comes and eats Totty’s food. Totty, for his turn, goes to Leon’s plate to eat his. Leon is then back to his plate. Totty’s plate, unattented, got eaten by Lila who still keeps her food. I still need to feed Mel who sleeps on the other side of the house. I find her plate and serve the food. I hear something, and go back to find Leon taking cats’ plate by mouth and dropping it on the ground. Meanwhile, Totty, Lila, and Miucha are already circling around, if not eating, Mel’s food.
Animal Kingdom is my house. They reign here. The black male cat named by the kids “Meow Cat Choo Choo” sleeps on top of the microwave oven and comes through an open window at 3:00 am and meows insistenly until someone opens to door so he can go out. Chocottone is the skinniest gluttonous one who fights like a real feline when holding a piece of meat. She crawls onto our shoulder and like to observe our food from there. She specially loves to stay on my father’s shoulder watching him eat or work. I can’t bend or she will climb my back. Miucha comes in and out anytime she wants. Mel, if I get distracted, sleeps on a sofa (feeling guilty) or even on my mom’s lap. Totty steps on my food, the ultimate injury. Lila comes running every time the cats get a treat. Except for Leon, who never comes into the house, all others come in when dinner time is getting close (after 3 pm, even though the dinner is served only at 7 pm). The cats are worst of all. I need to chase them all the time. I don’t want them going to the bedrooms to leave their “scented gifts” or fleas. The stripped one likes to sleep on top of kitchen towels or inside stuffed animals’ box. Two Siamese cats like to jump on top of the table to eat anything they can find. One belongs to Mariana and it is named Milk. The other one, as being an odd number, belong to both Clara and Mariana. He is bigger and meows. I think cats that meow must be male. These two kittens look so pretty, with black extremeties and blue eyes.
Every time I go to the vegetable garden, the Siamese brothers and Lila and Totty follow me. Invariably, they like to step on, or even lay down on top of my newly sowed seedlings. Mel likes to eat compost and egg shells.
I need to find a strategy to tame these dogs and cats. Since I started to cook good foods, they become more and more annoying and behaving as if starved. They are actually fat with big bellies, specially the cats, which get the best. I thought about not cooking rich food any more.
As I like to make soaps, I buy discarted fats, meats, bones, and loose fold of skin from the butcher. I trim them, and cut them up to get tallow. Some pieces are rubbery and hard to cut. It’s a though job. The meat and the cracklings get cooked with rice. To give the dogs other food flavors, I buy them chicken meat. When we don’t have either, I cook with some sausages, or even bacon we use for our own food. No wonder they all love me. Besides the deluxe food, I also give them extra helpings besides more food in their servings. Sometimes I find rice balls rolling around, sign of them ignoring the startch having eaten all the meat.
Feb.9, 2009
The puppies are growing strong and fat. Lila ignores her litter in a hot shed, going to rest in our cool varanda tile floor, they cry. They may be hungry. So, I feed them goat milk yogurt. It may be easily digested then cow’s milk.
The kittens got their eyes treated by an antibiotic spray I bought. They are well now, and have jumped out of the cardboard boxes. It could not be more convenient for the Mommy cat. The box is placed on top of the outside table where I feed the cats. The two black kittens have some shades of firey brown and the white one is not totally white. It has some cream colored stripped on her tail, and maybe on her paws and face. Although I wanted this one for myself, she doesn’t look as cute as others.
I talked to my father about our house having too many cats that walk on my raw gnocci I left under the towel or sleeping on the kitchen cloth. They walk on top of the table, sleep anywhere they please. My father, reluctantly, said that we would need to throw them away someday. He didn’t set the date.
March 12,2009
Animal kingdom follows its course without much human interference. To say, no cats got thrown away or puppies given away. It was Saturday, my father came up with a decision “OK, I will throw away the cats on Monday!”. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday came and all cats are still bossing around. I found two of them left inside our house (of course, no animals are allowed to sleep in) comfortably sleeping on the softest sofa.
Yesterday, I made scones glazed with chocolate. I covered with a sieve to avoid flies sitting on them. Later, I noticed that the sieve had three distinct triangle chocolate marks. I asked my daughter if she had played with it. No. That was the cats again.
Every day, they challenge my goodwill. Most of them jump on the counter to walk to the stove to steal food or to the set table with dinner. A few seconds of distraction and I find a cat licking its lips or with its face buried in a pot. I get mad, yell very loud for my father to hear, and threaten to get rid of them. He, calmly says “maybe we should put lids on all pots”. Cats are never at fault here.
From all the animals I have mentioned before, a few of them are gone. Chocottone, Clara’s imperfect kitty, was found dead some morning by my sister. She said, it was wet with no other marks. It is a mistery. But MC’s big female dog which is usually kept on leash was off the night before. And I saw her intimidating other cats that same morning. I had to tell Clara about Chocottone. I started very philosophical saying that everything that is born dies some day. Some will go sooner. She was surprised and run to wake up her cousin to tell her. She told me “I feel like crying but I won’t”. But as the days passed and her cousin left, she started to miss her kitty. She would come back looking sad from her hideaway place (under a cashew tree) with empty arms and alone to say she missed Chocottone. The place all reminded her of the kitty she helped to nurse back to health.
She, then, decided to adopt a white newborn kitty I was claiming for myself. As this one, named Sagwa now, grew up, I noticed that it didn’t have a cute face. I had made violent threats to release the mother with all the kittens somewhere a day before Chocottone was gone. Clara, as expected, even though forbidden, placed the kitty on my sofa to poop after hours of smothering with affection. It was not the first time the kids had done this and the cats had done that.
Black and white mommy cat is pregnant again, but it showed up with a sore on her neck. I am treating her.
Of all three puppies that were growing stronger now, one of them suffered some kind of injury. Another mystery. The squint-eyed puppy with no olfative abilities, shy and fearful was near some bushes with flies flying over. I thought to be dead and asked my father to bury it. He came back saying that it was still alive. So I sprayed with silver remedy a few days until it was really dead. I communicated the fact to my father asking him to bury it soon, but he took all day to do it. He was procrastinating. Animal injuries, sickness and death disturb him greatly.
So, we are left with a couple of black puppies I decided to keep. In a flash, they are already eating like a lion, running around my feet make it impossible to walk without tripping, bark and play. For Lila being a bad mother, I have given her (myself) a birth control shot. I have also tried on Mel, but she ran away with the needle still on, spilling out the medicine.
Besides cats and dogs that I cook for and treat everyday, I also have three caged Guinea hens. They are fun to watch as they are growing bigger and prettier, by changing their brownish feathers into beautiful white speckled over black adult feather. They got no names, and I heard they cannot be made into pets. Too wild. But my hope is that after feeding them, they return home when the big day of releasing them comes. When there are strange people around, they make loud noises. Good watch birds too. I am planning to enclose a bit of space for them to be on the ground before releasing them definetely. As any project, it takes time, money, study and skills.
I went to buy some bird food today and saw quails and baby Guineas. They look so cute. If I found any smaller cages, I may bring home a dozen more birds. Besides those four baby chicks that vanished leaving only black fur around the house, and two other Guineas that I carelessly left roaming to disappear, no other accidents or diseases to discourage me. Birds, like my parents, may be my vocation. They had egg farm for over 30 years.
Pets we have only two kinds: cats and dogs. Farm animals, besides my taming Guinea hens, we had only a few beautiful cows that my father had to sell to cover our expenses. Wild animals, I heard of bunnies on the coffee fields. If we had planted soy, they would come to decimate it. None of them came near the house tough. Now, one thing I was pleased to see. A woodpecker at our tree. I would hear a knocking noise and soon I knew it was it. Red top, black with white dots just like Guineas. From the roof, I see flocks of birds. Maritacas, from parrot family green birds fly, perch together and make loud clattering noise. Another mean looking bird is quero-quero, who makes their nest on the ground. I often see imponent hawks flying or standing somewhere. Two owls like to sit on the edge of a roof of an abandoned chicken coop. Among several other anonymous small birds, I see green parakeets on a papaya tree by my kitchen door. Of insects catching our attention, lightbugs and crickets. My father caught a cricket and hid it in his hands. As he squeaze it lightly, it would make noise like a whistle. He came smiling to surprise my daughter. She was scared at first but next day she got one to bring back to him. He smiled. Those are precious moments.
March 13, 2009
Today my father told me that he used to love cats since he was a small child. He once went to someone else’s house that had so many cats that anywhere that the eyes could reach, it would spot a cat. He dreamed of having a house like that. His family kept a cat, but as soon as the kitties were a little bigger, they would give them away. He said, he cried every time.
We have now eight cats, and one of them is heavily pregnant. Soon we are going to have a dozen again. And soon he is going to have a house where any place he lays his eyes on will find a cat.
My sister wrote me an email asking if any cats had died, since population control can be done only this way at our house. On the opposite, they are thriving. They eat very well and if sick, they get treated.
March 24, 2009
I have successfully kept alive three Guinea hens for over five weeks now. They have grown a lot, changing feathers, and becoming young chickens. I heard from the salesman that they were hatched in an incubator, so they are not as skittish as the ones hatched naturally among the weeds.
I have been bringing them out of the cage in the last days. I started with the biggest one. It enjoyed being out, making pleasing noises. As I would distance from its view, it would release a worrysome sound. As I would come back to its vision, it would stop crying. It liked to follow me everywhere. My father told me that when he tractors the field, quero-quero birds all come flying towards him. The rototilling moves the bugs up they are after. As we were out of the sight of the other two, they were also making anxious noise. I took them out one at each time on the first day.
On the second day, I tried by the twos. I didn’t want the whole group feeling independent and flying away to be soon caught by dogs, cats, or hawks. I worked in the garden while leaving them roaming around. As I looked up, I saw my father carrying the third one to my direction. He said he heard the one left crying sadly so decided to join him in.
They don’t know how to fly well yet. They try a little awkward jumps into my direction. I sure feel loved. But the same way that the hens like to follow me, we also got lots of curious expectators. We had all dogs and cats, including the puppies eager to play. Leon was farther away pretending that he was there with no second intentions. Totty and Lila couldn’t hide their desire to jump on them. The puppies didn’t pretend at all. The same way that they burst onto other dogs’ plate, they joyfully chased the hens at the loud screamming of mine. One of them lost some feathers, but came out alive and well.
The female puppy is more contained and obeys quicker. The male one just wants to be merry-go-happy. I worried that this one may be another Totty: awkward, disastrous, fearfull, disobedient, yet happy dog. Just a parenthesis on Totty: my father told me he was very good at finding cows on the pasture. He would go first and then bark when found the missing one.
My afternoons now are filled with all my “children” playing around me in the orchard-garden. I attract the hens to my patch I just hoed to prepare the soil for a new sowing sometime soon. But they don’t come alone.
From what I read, Guinea hens didn’t eat vegetables or fruits, so they wouldn’t damage my garden. However, to my disappointment, they love to eat young shoots. I need to shoo them out from my parsley, carrot, and basil patch. That means, I cannot count of them to exterminate the bugs from my vegetable garden. They wouldn’t revolve the earth with seeds, but they would kill all my seedlings.
So, I found my vocation for birds. I love them. I am holding myself from acquiring more Guinea hens or quails. I just didn’t get them because I don’t have an appropriate cage for the them.
April 8, 2009
My heart sunk as I heard through MC that we needed to get rid of the birds demanded by the man who leases the chicken coups. Challenging his order, I am keeping my Guineas as MC is keeping her Banties. In attempt to set my Guineas free sometime soon, I have released them permanently from the cage and let them range in a fenced area. I have lead them to the vegetable garden and tried to leave them there, but soon they don’t see me, they started to make worried noises. They follow me everywhere, and run or fly up to me when they feel threatened by my puppies. I put them to roost every night up on high, so other animals, specially big dogs won’t get them. I still feed them store bought processed food. By wanting them to eat caterpillars that continue destroying my arugulas, I have brought them there. They just ignored them, prefering to catch fly or other moving bugs. Catterpillar are way too slow to catch their attention as yummy food. Whoever said that they are “semi-domesticated at most”, wild, quarrelsome, noisy, didn’t see my Guineas. They are plain spoiled rotten. My maternal instincts (or overbearing attitudes) took such a care of them that they are not the independent, strong, defensive birds. I rather raised sweet, affectionate pets.
Autumm and I still see the birds in my garden next to the kitchen where we got tall trees. Every day I hear and see parkeets singing in duo unpleasant sounds. Other very hard to see little birds make a tremendous happy noise as if it were spring. I know that they are many, but the branches and the leaves camuflate them well.

January 27, 2009 - Rain and Food

Jan. 27, 2009
It has been raining for almost 24 hours ininterruptedly. At the first sign of rain, I was glad I didn’t have to water my seedlings. The lightening that sets that nitrogen in the soil was welcome. A few blinks of light signaling a blackout. It usually happens as it starts raining, with wind, thunder, and lightening. As it pours steadily, the power won’t go out.
My house was projected by my father and built by a carpenter. I am not sure if an engineer has supervised the work. In any case, it was built without a proper foundation and soon the walls started to crack. It doesn’t have a clay brick roof as it is common around here. We got roof made with the same material as the walls. There is no significant inclination to drain excess rain water. Combining flat roof with foundation problem, we get leaks in the entire house. I got a dozen pans, basin, pots, buckets to collect the water. The scariest thing for me, besides seen the water trickle down the wire to the lit lamp, it is the thought of the roof coming down at once. I even woke up at 3 a.m. to change bedrooms.
Cool, dark, wet days like this, we love to make bolinho de chuva (“rain fritters”). It is a deep fried pancakelike batter we drop into hot oil by the spoonfulls. They become round, browned, and smells hommy. Then we cover with sugar and cinnamon. Steammy freshly brewed coffee and our afternoon becomes as trivial as our neighbors’.
I baked a yogurt cake from scratch instead. My family enjoyed the last time I made it. For this one, I added lemon zest and sugar on top. My father savoured it saying that it was perfect. Well baked, dark on the outside and soft and moist inside. He told me that many times he wanted to buy a cake at a bakery and didn’t do so. I hope this cake comes to fill his long lasting desire to eat sweets instead of anything else.

January 26, 2009 - Little Surprises

Jan. 26, 2009
I don’t know if this is typical of January, but sometimes it turns very hot and dry, to soon become muggy and start pouring few minutes after having watered the plants. I use a construction grade hose, which is heavy and unyielding; or I carry water in a bucket for not having taken into consideration watering logistics. At the end of my gardening day, I am covered with sweat, mud and mosquito bites. That’s everyday.
Every time I go to the vegetable garden which is in the middle of the orchard, I catch a blend of yellow medlar and orange blossoms. As the breeze comes in streams, I need to keep moving myself to find the scent. It is so faint and fleeting. It’s a second. Like life in important moments. Or memory flashes.
Every day reserves me little surprises. Two days ago as I was hoeing the weeds, I spotted one single yellow fruit under a bunch of leaves. As I got close, I looked up to find a tree full of ripe abiu (Pouteria caimito). Gelatinous, translucid, soft persimmonlike texture and taste, yet more delicate and lightly perfumed. Yesterday, I spotted a pitanga tree with its delicate berries . They resemble a miniature pumpkin in shape, but have very thin red skin and watery sweet juice. It is best to be eaten under their three and in alcoholic drinks (hard liquor, fruit and sugar). Not much taste, but a lot of perfum.
I had seen the jabuticaba tree with their trunks covered with green berries. From one day to another, several of them had gotten black and ripe. Like many other tropical native fruits, it has pits. We only eat the pulp. White, sweet, gelatinlike. It’s hard to tell why we love it so much. It may be because we appreciate it under a tree in our childhood and it only comes along in season. They are highly perishable (like pitanga), therefore, we cannot have it too far from the tree.
Acerola is another berry. Without noticing, it yielded lots of bright red fruits in little bunches. Like pitanga, it has thin skin on a cherrylike shape and size. The meat is watery, lemony with soft seeds. Children love to eat it, but I enjoy it as a juice (pulp, water and sugar, like lemonade) or mixed with starfruit. Many times a day, I run to the orchard and gather a handfull of acerola fruits. In a few minutes, I get refreshing juice.
Plants that I thoughts not to be, they are now sprouted and growing such as arugula, cilantro, sweet corn, squash and beans. I may have lost only watercress, spinach, and some cucumbers. I don’t know about hard to sprout okra. Since then, I have sowed radish, purple basil, sweet basil which are already sprouting, and carrots, calendula, purple basil, green basil, parsley, anis, cumin, marigolds, dill, hot peppers, and some medicinal herbs. I have transplanted taro, thyme and mint that we already had to a better site. Clara had sowed some popcorn on the driest and unfertile spot of all garden. It’s about to sprout.
Surprises continued with mandioc. I went down to the coffee field with a hoe on my shoulders but with no bags. I was hopeless about finding any edible root. As I started digging, a fat white root got cut underground. I carried them home full of mud against my chest.
Walking around the orchard, I noticed that most guava and pitanga leaves are covered with holes. The cashew hasn’t yield any fruit lately. Most trees are tall and getting old. But the kumquat is ripening. Small jabuticaba berries by our old house are soon good to eat. Avocado and mango are in harvest. Soon it is going to be passed like coconut water I had just a few days ago.
Maria Cristina came to tell me that very young chayottes are forming and her squash vines are growing out. Our tenants are keeping bananas and durian for me.
Every day, seeds sprout, plants grow quickly, flowers become fruit and rippen, weeds are adamant. I can’t blink. No kitting, no blinking. Things happen so quickly, it’s hard to keep a track of all the processes and metamorphosis happening around me. Kittens and puppies are opening their eyes. They have grown twice their original size in twenty days. I, myself, have changed my mind about trading usefulness for aesthetics; practicality for style. Specially, what I several times thought of being ugly, today is the most desirable thing. I used to dislike dead leaves and sticks under trees. Today, I rake them to the bare areas to make it more permeable. I can’t wait anxiously for a tankful of liquid manure or a toad in my garden.
Surprises follow one another. Some good, some others not so. It rains hard now. From stuffy day to the coolest. Water was hitting hard the east side windows and provoking roof leak. It is flooding and washing away my hard clay dug soil I mixed with worm-worked compost. I hope it is not dragging away all the little seedlings. Tomorrow I cannot hoe, but I am going to plant an extensive row of sunflower along our farm border.
Living on a farm require us to be yielding and submissive to the forces of nature. We can do only so much. The work hours don’t really feel like work. No clock to punch. Lateness is not judged by a piece of mechanical (or digital, nowadays) gadget. A minute or even hours are not measurement for being on time or late. Our time is sensed by weather, sunshine, and seasons. Or breakfast, lunch, afternoon coffee, and dinner. We get more margin in our life. At the same time that there is endless work at the farm (and at home), I feel like I have not worked at all. It is as if the second has transformed into minutes, and minutes into hours, hours into days, and days into weeks. That’s why I cannot be in a hurry. Life takes time. Its time.

January 11-13, 2009 - City People´s Set of Mind

Jan 11, 2009
It’s impossible to try to live on a farm with city people’s set of mind. The first thing I have to give up is to be in a hurry. I was so anxious about having a bountiful vegetable garden that I ended up forgetting to raise the beds and sowed directly on hard soil without cutting away weeds that grow wildly. My father told me that seeds know when there are weeds and won’t germinate. I have to wait for my father to spray (!) the new chosen area. He told me that the herbicide would eliminate those unwanted plants, and then, I could have a nice garden. I am reluctant in theory, for I wanted to have an organic garden. On the other side, I don’t want to be fighting against weeds that grow uncontrolably. I also decided that I want someone to prepare the ground for me, and also, that I should use commercial compost (but natural worm worked earth) that my father has from old vineyard he used to have. I cannot wait months to make one. Besides, composting means handling fresh chicken manure and pushing it uphill on a wheelbarrow with wind blowing against my face. I don’t want to pile up earth, or kitchen scraps, and specially, having to wait. In a hurry, I also paid more for watercress seeds, just to learn that it cannot be sowed in Summer. The only thing I can harvest is the green onions my father always keep.
Farming means lots of obstacles rather than lots of achievements. I have to wait for the right season, right weather, right time of the day. If these were not enough, I get unexpected events, such as ants cutting away my jasmin and hibiscus which lay completely naked if not dead. My father suggested me to find their nest to pour some poison...That works! He guaranteed. Not only ants. Today I caught my puppy sitting on top of my tiny geranium planter twice as smaller than her. Geranium had already suffered from ant work (I thought that geraniums were natural repelent).
I feel defeated on my first attempt to farming: the obnoxious prickly weeds growing under the clothes hanging area I plucked by hand in a unforgiving midday sun are back strong and well, as if I have never been there. The vegetable garden patch is again covered with many kinds of weeds which have grown several inches, suffocating arugula and cucumber seedlings. Everything else (beans, cilantro, spinach, ginger, oregano) have not showed signs of courage to fight the outside world. Of flowers, most of them live, but some barely. Either attacked by ants or by my bad job in transplanting (or watering). Even the four chicks vanished. I found the cage dropped on the ground upside down and empty. I cannot handle animals too well. One of our dogs have some kind of worms on his behind and I already wanted to put him to sleep. He has urinary incontinence and smells terrible. His favorite place to hang out is by the kitchen door and at the outside laudry room. The cats make their bathroom all around the yard. I wanted to release them elsewhere far from here, but my father loves them. From five newborn kittens, two of them also disapear. It was not me! I get mad with dogs and cats come in and out of the house permissively. They are everywhere. But at night, I am thankful for the smelly dogs. They guard the house and my sleep. The cows? Oh, yeah, we got them. One of them has a kid. But my father told me it can’t be milked. She is not used to people. Just now that I learned to make farmer’s and mozzarela cheeses from an old book. In order not to feel too frustrated, I made some yogurt today, to find out that it didn’t turn out. My improved avocado tallow soap looked beautiful yellowish green to become dark and spongy like the other I have made before.
My father told me that a man sells bread made in a wood fired oven at the farmer’s market. He invited me to visit this man’s farm to see his oven. My mom’s nurse told me that there is a ranch that sells fresh milk that is not hand milked. For hygiene concerns, I don’t want to get milk from little farmers.
It rained last night. It’s cloudy and cool. It’s past sunset. I have some time left to pluck some weeds before I head to the kitchen to fix the dinner.
Jan. 12, 2009 – My adventures into an unknown territory continues. Carla Emery tells me to heat the raw milk up to 161⁰F for 20 seconds in order to pasteurize it. But I remember a Brazilian national campaign on TV about milk containing e.coli in pasteurized milk sold in supermarkets had to be sterilized by boiling it for 5 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid pouring over. Just to be sure, I double boiled for a few minutes. I didn’t get it burned on the bottom of the pot and failed to kept at low temperature.
So, I didn’t milk our cows. I got it as a gift “to make me a customer” – said the woman. My father needed to pay a visit to a neighbor farmer, the Rossi family. The region I live is populated by small family run properties, just like ours. To my surprise, there are still people living in a rural area. That means that I have neighbors! I just can’t see them. I actually know of them since I was a teenager – Franza, Favarin, Chicoli, Hidalgo. I used to take the same school bus as their children.
I drove our old car down by a paved road for less than two miles and took a narrow dirt road when two men on each tractor was chatting in the middle of the coffee plantation. Halt! I stopped the car. I heard one of them giving an account on a bull who got choked by a mango pit. It soon got slaughtered and the meat shared amongst his family members. “It was soooo tender!”. After resolving the issue that had brought my father here, I asked about cow’s milk. The man told me they sold not only milk but fresh farmer’s cheese. I speeded up to reach the house. As usual around here, several buildings surround a cement patch were coffee beans are spread to dry. Some are homes, some others may be old homes used now to store tools or junk. A few of them are made of wood with some architectural interest. Newer homes are made of brick and lack style. But they got plenty of “greenhouse effect” – the roof is made of amiant and cement, turning the house an oven. A woman came to greet us. I didn’t know her, but they all knew my mother. I am not a complete stranger. Soon, she took me to a house to show me her wood fired oven. It was big. Different from all others that I have seen before that burns the wood first and all the charcoal is taken away before baking. This one was built using a metal barrel. The fire is lit under it. The first one is made of brick and mud; the second one has a metal addition. Inside the house, the traditional built-in wood fired stove. Erica got out 2 liters of raw milk and a farmer’s cheese still in the mold. They were both from today. Usually, the recycled coke container used to store 2 liters of milk costs US$1,00 and 1 lb. cheese US$1,80. She gave them to me. Then, she took me to see the pigs, goats, lambs. A striped pig is a javali mix. I didn’t know it. Others were plain or speckled like dalmatian puppies. On our way back home, I told my father that I don’t have to make or have everything. I can simply buy cheese from a neighbor.
I think my father is an enthusiast of wood fired stove as well. He suggested me to go to somebody else’s farm nearby we heard has a combined oven and stove. It was actually even larger than that one I had seen. The oven was made utilizing a Scania truck tank with the same heating method – underneath. The stove had plenty of space to lay hot pots on and a special cavity for coffee bean roasting. The owner made it himself, projecting, welding, constructing, and all. I just didn’t like the ceramic use on it. Red painted burned cement looks so much original than this touch of modernity. The lady, Cida, told me that she got so used to cook on this stove that she used it everyday. She was frying chicken when we showed up. I liked the idea, but I will think of something smaller that will use only one source of heat for all three uses, instead of three different firing holes.
Under my father’s guidance, I made yogurt with the milk. I left some out to make some custard tomorrow. The cheese tasted fresh, light, moist, almost neutral. I took a sip of the raw milk. It resembles cow’s smell. It’s so interesting how the poops smell like their milk, cheese and even meat (or other way around). I ordered some goat cheese whenever she makes them. It’s going to be a leap of faith. And also to call me if they had something else to sell. Food product, of course.

Jan.13, 2009
Incompatible are going to sleep late and farming. Summer days like these, we have to take a siesta between 1:00 pm until about 4:00 pm. If it hadn’t rained, it gets hot everywhere. No air conditioning. We can’t do anything to soon start pouring sweat and become soaked in a matter of minutes. We can’t wear clothes that were dried or ironed the same day. Even after long hours, they are still warm to touch. On the other hand, yogurt turned out great. It was thick, creamy, yet light and sweet. I got so enthusiastic that I went back today to buy 4 liters of milk and another cheese. With 3 liters, I made sweet milk paste. Nothing more than milk cooked over a high fire with sugar and a pinch of baking soda and salt for over an hour. This is as popular as jam and other fruit compotes me make with green papaya and also with squash. I saw a few green papayas near the chicken batteries were manure is plenty. I thought of collecting them, but I gave up. Too much of sweet things can make us a “real farm woman” with arms like free-form baked bread. I made a flan too. It is in the fridge. We all had our share and don’t feel like eating any more of it. I ordered cheese made out of goat milk. But I want it mixed with cow’s milk. Goat smells really strong and their milk is not different. Yesterday I heard from my uncle’s wife that her grandson has a herd of sheep on their little farm next to where I lived as a small child. I am planning to visit him. I thought, perhaps, to start to raise sheep as well, but I soon give up after I few “natural animal life” I have seen. Our dog gave birth but at least two of them are dead. I saw one probably squashed by her. Our kittens looks so cute, but their cardboard box has traces of feces. Two days ago, I found my black chick’s feathers on a dried body just by the varanda. As I say: “Animal and India (country) are pretty only on TV and pictures, where we don’t have to live all the five senses.” Even agriculture is not clean. All the compost, manure, worms, insects, toads!
While I am trying to adapt myself to a farm living, I went to visit Silvia who lives with her 5-year old son on a small ranch. It’s a mix of amusement and disgust every time I visit a farm. I love seen animals roaming around, and I think I want to have that kind of property. But I am slowly changing my mind, as I can’t stomach much of what animals do and what we got to do such as treating and vetting them. Silvia’s house has a Swiss style adapted to our tropical weather. It is strangely long and dark. A varanda surrounds front part of the house with several vases of plants that may lack nourishment. I was mostly interested in the wood fired stove and oven combination. The oven placed right under where the wood burns, heating the oven as the stove has been used. She uses it everyday.
I was so curious about her managing her farm. She told me that she has cattle and she watches over her brother’s coffee farm nearby with a help of a laborer. It seemed so simple to me. Her life doesn’t seem as complicated as my father’s. He is all the time caring for his coffee, cows, and other farm matters. I guess I could do what she does.
Today I wore my father’s sturdy black rubber boots as I used to when I was a child. I carried a bag in search for young squash. I didn’t find any. The tenant told me I could find near her house not only squash but also taro roots. I am heading there later this afternoon with a cup of sweet milk paste for them.

Jan 16, 2009
So much work! Projects get started and they seem never to get concluded. Starting from seedlings I have to sow, partially hoed weeds in a new land parcel, manure or compost that hasn’t been gathered and piled up, organizing my stuff that are scattered along the bedroom corridor, curtains to hang back, routine things such as cooking, cleaning and organizing, going shopping, and urgent matters such as transplanting plants that are uprooted. Today hoed an area covered with tall cosmos flowers I had sowed a few months ago. They are now tall, woody and unwelcoming. It’s by the old water tank but still has lots of piping underground that runs water. I was careful not to cut down any pipe and planted taro potatoes I got from my tenants yesterday. The starchy lightly slimy roots were young, green and melted in the mouth when cooked. I had not seen taros such as these in a long long time. It takes me back to my childhood when my mom used to stew taro wtih strips of beef, sugar, and soy sauce. I loved the long kind opposed to the rounded ones sold in stores. The acerola tree had exceptionally big fruits that I made into juice as soon as I got home. Between the chicken buildings, the ground is covered with weeds and squash that grows wildly. I found only one squash for dinner. It was so tender and juicy that the stew turned out a mash instead. The bananas and durian are still green. Another week. In my veggie patch, I found cilantro sprouts and beans. It’s so surprising to watch nature. I thought that beans had not sprouted to find it 5 inches tall; the flower blossom on jabuticaba tree already bear almost ready to pick fruits; all orange trees are carrying oranges and flowers; Japanese yellow plum tree (biwa) exhales sweet scent of its non-attractive flowers; starfruit which has fruit is all year round it is also blossoming little pink clusters. As I turned on the water for irrigation, I smell a mix of sweet flowers, fresh cilantro leaves and earth. Coming back home soaked, I take a shower without chlorine in the water. Little by little I start to forget these small treats I have living here.
At the sound of blowing leaves, we all run around like birds before the rain. As we hang our clothes outside on a wire, they become at the mercy of the weather. We rush to collect drying clothes, shut the windows and doors which usually remain open until late at night, bring inside anything that can’t get wet. The wind hitting the rags washed with my homemade soap smell something that I can’t recall. Brazilians specially use it to wash very dirty clothes or to polish pots. Bar soap, steel wool and aluminum. Bar soap, jeans, and a brush. That’s the combination. I haven’t gotten used to wash my clothes with my soap. I miss the “fresh smell” of store bought laundry soap and the softner. It may be the tallow smell that annoys me. I will make all-vegetable oil soap someday. One of the most popular recipe for homemade soap is made of tallow and used kitchen oil, alcohol, water, and commercial lye. I have made a few batches successfully. I have tried mixed with herb juice, bleach, lemon juice, and even aloe vera pulp. The one that I cannot get right is the lard soap. I don’t see too well when it traces. I am never sure when to pour. I have made at two different times, with good hard lathering bar, but the top looks like it still holds some fat. I may need to add more lye next time.
The wind blew, thin drops of cool rain reached the soil for a few minutes. The weather became cooler and nice. It’s still stuffy inside the house though. Outside, I noticed our acerola tree bearing fruit. It was just yesterday that I saw it blossoming. Walking through the orchard, I found a few pineapple crowns planted. It’s a sunny parcel. I may plant my herbs over there.

January 3, 2009 - Advantages

Jan 03, 2009
Life on a farm has lots of advantages. In comparison to that little town I used to live, rural life is marked by nature in spite of all city comfort we may have: electricity, TV with satelite cable, cel phones, appliances, and even other equipments for our comfort. Inside the house, in nothing differs from another house in town. Until muddy dogs and wet cats enter from any open door. I was awakened early morning by a cat who came through a half opened window. As I opened the door to kick it out, four others came in. Soon the dogs also wanted to have their food. I gave up sleeping, fed the dogs, and fixed myself some weak coffee to be drunk in small cups, but many times.
Drinking fresh water out of a deep well; eating freshly fished tilapia few hours from getting them out of a pond nearby; smelling the sweet tropical scent of ripe fruit of an ugly white flower; walking through the coffee plantation; hearing my daughter saying “I love to walk through here”; picking avocados from the ground and saving them to make soap; running around to bring the little chicks out for the day, and taking them away at night and feeding them with a variety of grains, proteins, greens; keeping my eyes open over the dogs and cats ready to chase and chew my birdies; grilling steak almost every dinner using logs that lay around; eating enormous yet buttery mangoes; checking out of a bunch of unriped bananas by the chicken batteries; going to the tenants’ house to ask for durian, a creamy delicacy but considered a hillbillies’s choice of fruit; silence at night being broken only by dogs barks somewhere far—no more cars squeaking the tires under my window, neither drunkards yelling on the street; clothes hanging on a long line to be dried by the sun and wind; carrying a bucket full of wild cucumber for dinner; wondering when I can cut a young bamboo shoot; remembering to water all new plants we planted to revitalize the landscape; planning to pick up the sugar cane mill fallen on the ground after the wood base got rotten.
Farm life is getting the hands and nails dirty, heels cracked, suntan only until the t-shirt allows, eating anything that I feel like, it’s observing the nature taking its course. It’s seeing the rain falling on a thirsty land; it’s seeing the grateful plants that welcome with blossoms.