Dave and I spent this week on Rosa Maria’s farm. And while it was really just a short amount of time, I like to think I learned a few farm lessons.
- You need rope to milk cows
So make a lot – rope that is. Every day Patricia took us up the hill to greet her family’s three dairy cows and reunite them temporarily with their three calves. To do this we had to untie the young bulls, herd them toward their mamas, and then tie up the dairy cows’ legs and tails so they wouldn’t walk away as we started to milk them.
Our first attempt at milking the cows was pretty pathetic, especially while standing near Patricia who was able to produce steady streams of milk that shot into her pail nearly every second. Dave and I thought our cow was broken and dried up, until Patricia came over and effortlessly filled up our pail in less than a few minutes. Now, however, after one week, we’re starting to get the hang of it.
Back at the house, Rosa Maria showed us how to make rope from a plant that looks like a giant aloe, called sisal. Apparently they grind down the giant leaves and peel away the fibers to make rope.
So watch out. Today Patricia led me and Dave to a waterfall that hadn’t been visited in some time. As usual, she toted a machete and hacked through creeping vines and rotten trees that obstructed the path. As Dave and I bared the freezing water for a few minutes, Patricia busied herself by clearing more of the brush, swinging the machete in all directions like she was conducting an orchestra. There had been a small landslide – of course – so there was plenty of debris for her to chop. Dave and I were standing about 10 feet away, drying off our feet after our dip. I looked to my left to watch Patricia slash a thick vine sideways, but she only cut about halfway through. As she raised her hand up again and went for another backhanded slash the machete flew out of her hand and summersaulted handle over tip toward me and Dave, slicing through the one-foot space that separated us, and finally crashing into Dave’s boot. Good thing he had put his shoes on.
Despite the flying machete, the waterfall was pretty cool.
- Not all chickens were created equal
So eat them while they’re fat, and scoop them up when they’re slow. For the past week I’ve delighted in watching the tiny week-old chicks that peep nervously behind their hen-moms and seek refuge under her feathers at night. Yesterday Dave and I found a new family of three yellow chicks who looked about as small as the eggs they hatched out of. One was clearly the runt because he couldn’t keep up with his slightly larger siblings and when he tried to run after them he tripped over himself and wasn’t exactly coordinated enough to get back up. I knew he was kind of slow when I was able to pick him up and pet his head.
Today Patricia’s 2-year-old daughter Sarah came up to the porch holding a dead yellow chick around the belly, shaking her fist to make its head swing. Not entirely sure how he died, and Sarah didn’t tell us where she found him, but I’m pretty sure it was the same chick.
And while this one died at only a few days old, for the past week we’ve been eating other chickens raised on the farm who at least grew in their feathers before meeting their end. Rosa Maria told us the younger chickens were the tastiest, but an older hen would also do, as long as she was fat enough.
So plant lots of them. Turns out the only way to propagate the avocados grown on Rosa Maria’s farm is through grafting. While the backyard is nearly completely shaded by avocado trees weighed down with heavy fruit, the pits that manage to germinate grow into trees that do not produce fruit. Instead when Rosa Maria came to this house years ago she brought with her small pieces of her old avocado tree and grafted them onto to sterile saplings.
Pigs, dogs, squirrels, niños, everybody loves avocados.