Thursday, January 28, 2010

December 18th, 2008 - Arrival

12/18/08 - All my belongings were hauled by a truck, while Clara and I took an overnight bus to my town. My beloved young pastors took me to a bus stop and so we left Aguas de São Pedro. We left as sudden as we arrived. I had closed one more chapter in my life. I carried a light feeling of satisfaction of leaving behind people with the problems they have. I freed myself. Some of my friends and students got upset, others sad, and some others didn’t care. I am still assessing whether I am sad or I don’t care.
12/28/08 - I got here less than two weeks ago. My stuff is still packed. Some pieces of furniture are doubling my parents’.
Carla Emery (Encyclopedia of Country Living) said “No matter where you are or go, if you can grow a garden and raise some animals, you’re a homesteader. And a fortunate human being.” You can tell that I am struggling with my moving back to my town. It is indeed a “back to the land”, in the literal sense.
While still living in Aguas, I told Clara that she could have as many pets as she wanted after we moved to the farm. She made a long list of animals including a horse. I knew that a horse was too big a project, but I had considered free-range chickens, guinea hens, pigs, goats, lambs, rabbits. I wanted to have a “true” self-sustaining farm with all kind of edible veggies, a large orchard, wood fired stove and oven.
Since I arrived, I have not gone to my little town very often, except for my homecoming ritual (instituted by me) of eating a tubelike fritter with guarana soft drink. The bar owner is the first to know that I am in town. The heat has been almost unbearable if were not the brief periods of time of cloudiness and rain. If I go to town, I come back without running all my errands.
I called up an old friend of mine who is living with her 5-year old son on a farm she runs after the death of her mother and older brother. Her sister has also moved out from there. I have lots to talk to her. Silvia was 17 when I first met her at school. She lived on a farm that enchanted me for the rusticity. Her family lived in a wooden house, with wood fired stove which pipe ran through the fire and heated the shower water. The refrigerator was powered by a generator. But what most caught me were the goats and chickens roaming around. We talked about natural lifestyle and Hajneesh. I went on to college to study Social Science and she ended up graduating in Agriculture. Until I re-met her 4 years ago, over 20 years had passed since I had seen her last.
But today I went to visit another dear friend. We were 13 when we became friends. At that time, we talked about boys. This morning, we talked about men. Our cumplicity remains through decades, even after 28 without seen each other. We re-met two years ago.
Clara and her cousin Mariana wanted to get two chicks each. Our neighbor didn’t want to sell chicks without the mom hen. This took us to what I consider to be almost a real farm. That’s my mom’s nurses parents’ house. A simple white brick house, surrounded by a myriad of colored flowers, neatly kept by daily sweeping of bare soil. An outside kitchen sink with large polished aluminum pots drying over an even larger sieve normally used in coffee harvest. A rustic wood fired dome oven made with bricks and covered with red clay, all cracked by lack of building tecnology. A laundry with washing board joined with a washing machine under a pink blossomed vine that covered the outside room. Ajoined, a closed vegetable garden to prevent chicken from entering. A chicken coop, a rotten bamboo basket as a nest, chickens with bare neck, mothers roaming with chicks, a young turkey, a nearby old house with dozens of watermelons, a pig with three piglets. A priviledged view from the house framed by a large flamboyant tree: a running creek across the field to end up in a drying lake with geese, cows, lambs, horses. Small house for a large family with visitors. Three men were leisurely talking and laying on benches under a shade of fruity mango tree. On top of the table, three mobile phones. We left with four baby chicks, a bag of wild mangos, fertilized eggs, a watermelon, and anatto seeds.
The kids play all day with three kittens and other cats they can lay hands on. The puppy we brought from Aguas are now kept outside. She no longer shows signs of hiperactitivy. From old habits, the only one she keeps is of eating other animal dejects and rotten foods, refusing to eat her expensive commercial dog food which is fought over by other house dogs.
I have not done much besides cooking and caring for everyone.
I breath pure farm air (not mountain air as I have once desired) and drink and shower crystal clear well water. Just for that, I am grateful. But I am offered much more. The potential abundance the land may supply. I gathered fruit trees on a list: oranges, tangerines, mandarin oranges, lime orange, lemon, papaya, cashew, guava, coconut, lychee, star fruit, acerola, mangos, pomegranate, banana, sugar cane, durian, kumquat, and other native plants such as jabuticaba, guabiroba, graviola, abiu, ameixa amarela, pitanga. On our modest herb garden (no vegetable garden yet) we have growing lush green onions and aloe vera, and herbs that I have brought with me such as rosemary, thyme, mint, basil. Fruit trees and herbs are scattered around on a farm. We got lemongrass where we back up our car to go out of the garage, the pomegranate tree is outside bathroom window, the sweet jabuticaba is near the entrance gate. Durian tree hanging many large fruits like a large breasted woman stands by our tenant’s house.
Maria Cristina (the nurse) and her husband live right facing our living room door. It’s only a few steps away. It used to be my father’s two room office, which he converted into their house by adding a kitchen and a bathroom. We have an electric bell that rings in her house any time we need her. They usually tend to a vegetable garden with lettuce, parsley, green onions, and kale. Now they have squash and chayotte vines.
Down by the chicken batteries, we have planted by our old tenants’ employees taro and bananas carrying full bunch of green bananas. Dying around the farm, old squash and loofah vines. Still to be inspected, a bamboo which may yield shoots for Japanese cuisine. Everytime I came to the farm, I planted okra, but never grew successfully. With my presence now, I may be able to tend to new plants, so I expect to harvest several kinds of vegetables and herbs in months to come.
My father plants coffee commercially. I remember not too long ago him roasting coffee over an open fire using a round globelike roaster with a manual turning handle. Then, an electric coffee grinder. Even today I thought about sewing a cotton coffee filter to replace paper filters. My morning coffee is weak but I take afternoon coffee strong sweetened with organic brown sugar. What a pleasure!
We also have about 9 cows. One could milk them if willing...And we remain using non-fat store bought long life milk.
Land is a good thing. We even found a cotton bush. I had the experience of folding a cottonball between my fingers. It is soft and gentle, silky fine fibers that almost seems to melt like sugarcotton.
I still don’t know how much of it is a dream or a hope, or a feasable project. I want to have a grapevine with Niagara grapes. My father once had other grapes, but after a few years of not getting very sweet ones, he gave up. Today, that section is occupied by coffee trees, non-edible mandioc. Still in our limits, we have a few coconut trees for green coconuts we take water from. This water is known to be nutricious, even replacing mother’s milk. I want to have all kinds of herbs, edible or medicinal. I want my favorite types of veggies. I want to cook using my cast iron pots on a wood fired stove and bake breads, pizzas and cookies and roast pork, whole chickens, and beef in a wood fired oven. I want to roast my own coffee. I want to work weaving fabrics. I want to extract some essencial oils. I want to keep making my own soap.
We can do so much here. I love plants, but don’t like to handle animals. I won’t be able to butcher and eat them. I wouldn’t even eat brown eggs. Or drink unprocessed milk. I only love open air grilled steak!!! I changed my mind about raising pigs. The romantic side asks for all farm animals; but my city values won’t tolerate feces, diseases and other smells and slimes that come with animals. Yuk!

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