We’ve moved!

1 Nov

Just a reminder that we have changed our name! Check out our new website Rancho Amanecer!

New season, new name! Rancho Amanecer!

18 Sep

We have been trying to come up with a name for our farm ever since we started, and nothing ever seemed quite right.

I set up this website and our Facebook page using Las Tunas Farm, because we are in the neighborhood of Las Tunas, and we are a farm. I love the simplicity of it.

However we have beautiful fabulous dreams of moving out of this little farm to a ranch sometime in the near future. As soon as we sell our house (anybody want to buy a lovely two story in Las Tunas?), we will be able to farm on our own land, instead of borrowed/rented land. Sigh… :)

So, we need a brand name that can move with us. After some brainstorming, we came up with Rancho Amanecer, which means Sunrise Ranch. Can you just hear the birds chirping, and smell the dew on the plants, and that fresh dawn air? See the sweet, gentle sunlight beginning to lighten the sky?

I love the way the name rolls off the tongue in Spanish, too. If you need some help, it sounds like Ah-mah-neigh-sair.

This name also lends itself well to a logo. I have been trying to come up with a logo from day one, to no avail, but I think this one is obvious, a sun rising over some mountains.

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I mean, something like that.

Which means I now have to somehow change the name on this blog and my Facebook page, and get all my followers to follow the new one. So, stay tuned for those changes coming up.

Oh, and in Farm News, we have fresh salad! Yay. We have baby things in the greenhouse, which will be ready come November, and the tractor is coming today to plough the field! Very exciting. I’ll get a picture up of our blank canvas later.

A farmers’ date night

11 Aug

A bit of parenting advice I hear over and over again is to keep your relationship with your spouse special: make time for each other, without the kids, and set a regular date night.

Well by night-time, I’m pretty much not fun company anymore, so last week, we went on a date breakfast. We hired a sitter, and went to La Esquina for some quiet, uninterrupted conversation. It really was recharging, and I vowed to do it again.

This week, we’ve spent a lot of time in the garden (even though I said we were taking the week off–didn’t happen!) We are mostly cleaning up the farm, getting it ready for the upcoming season. It’s like fall time in August, everything is dry and dead, except spring follows. Living in the tropics has me all crazy.

Anyway, we were rolling up this grow cloth, and sorting through what we can reuse and what we have to throw away. It got pretty romantic.

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Here’s Carlos holding his end, saying, “c’mon beautiful”.

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And here I am, taking baby steps towards him, eyes locked, dopey love smile on my face. Sigh.

With a job like this, who needs date night?

Finally, cow cheese

5 Aug

We have made cheese, but we always used our goat’s milk. Since we only have three milking goats, we had to save up a couple of days worth of milk to be able to get 2 gallons.

Now that we are milking our cow, it’s even easier. We’ve been selling the milk (a steal at $25/liter) and we still have extra, so we made cheese.

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We haven’t used rennet yet, but I can’t wait to try that. I think we will get a thicker coagulation. As it is, we use the berries of the trompillo plant, and it comes out really creamy and smooth.

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Someday, when we really get things going, we will be able to make a cheese-making room. But for now, we just take over the kitchen. I’d also like to try making aged soft cheeses, like Brie and Camembert. We’ve always got about a million things we want to do, and we are trying to do as much as we can “right now” instead of “someday when we have ….”, because we all know someday never comes.

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Mentally, we are taking a break from the garden this week. The animals of course need us daily. But we are talking about all the plans/dreams we have for next season, and still working on this season, and it’s good to just take a vacation once a year. So we won’t be harvesting lettuce this week, and we will try to restrain ourselves from planting anything. Just one week!

Propagating plants make the kitchen a lovely place to be

31 Jul

Yay! We finally got our new cabinets! I don’t think I can express in words how fantastic this is. Better to show some pictures.

Obviously these are the before shots.

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Relaxing, half-done. Not that Carlos installed them. I’m not sure why he chose to rest in this particular place. Perhaps they are so lovely and clean and fresh, so he had to get close.

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And finally:

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And some greenery to make it feel more heartful! I love propagating. Not only does it add green to my house, but it also has the feeling of being full of potential: it will be its own plant someday.

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That’s thyme. I’m picking out the woodier stems to propagate. I put a drop of honey in the water for antimicrobial action. I also imagine that the glucose feeds the growing plant.

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That’s a sweet potato. We will plant the shoots to make more sweet potatoes.

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Rosemary on the left, Thai basil for tea and pretty flowers, and a lovely shrub on the right. It has white and pink flowers that smell good and grows quickly. I’m hoping to plant it in the yard somewhere.

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A pineapple and a paper mâché animal. My sister started the pineapple. It has roots, so I could technically plant it, but it’s so nice and clean looking in the water jar. And I saved the animal from the trash while we were cleaning out the building at school. I think it goes with my color scheme.

Little chicken farmer

25 Jul

Leon is pretty much the hardest thing in my life right now. If you haven’t had a toddler in your life recently, you have no idea. If you used to have toddlers in your life, you have forgotten how terrible it is. Now I understand the “terrible twos”. I used to think it was about tantrums, but in Leon’s case, it’s all about GETTING INTO EVERYTHING QUICKLY.

I need a little person (one with lots of energy and agility) to just follow him around, making sure he doesn’t drink gasoline, spill acid on his feet, or climb 8 foot ladders (yes all of these things happened).

On the flip side, our busy little boy is proving to be very industrious. Yesterday morning, I let all the little chicks out of their coop, so I could move it to fresh ground. Then I had to catch them all and put them back in. Leon was watching all this from the bedroom window. His dad opened the bedroom door, and Leon RAN out, straight for the chickens, and began catching them and putting them in the coop.

It was amazing to see him understand the two-step process: not only catch them, but also put them where they belong. It was also amazing that his attention never waned. He saw the task through to the end. Yay, go Leon!

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So then later that day, we went over to the farm. I wanted to feed the hens tomatoes because we had a lot of extras and I showed Leon how to pick tomatoes and put them in a bucket.

He got serious about his task right away, filled his bucket, and then laboriously and with focus, brought the bucket over to the hens. I didn’t show him to feed them to the hens; I was busy doing something else, but Leon just knew. Seriously humans are amazing.

He’s a year and seven months and already earning his keep. This might work out after all.

On trying to do it all

19 Jul

I came across a really lovely blog, A Cup of Jo, and particularly loved her series on work/baby/life balance where she interviews different working moms. Most of them live in the city and their work is writing. No one like me. So I decided to use her interview questions for my own life.

1. What’s your work schedule?

I teach first and second grade ESL and that goes from 8 to 10:30 everyday. So I usually will run one quick errand and be home just before 11. I then make lunch for me and Carlos and Leon and go and breastfeed. Then I have about 2 hours to do anything. I used to use this time for domestic chores, but I’ve started using it for the garden. Then I breastfeed again, and go back to work on the farm.

Working more on the farm, instead of using that middle work period for home stuff, has been great. Carlos feels less abandoned with all the work, I feel less cooped up, and of course our farm gets way more attention. It’s funny how two people working together is more than twice as effective. I was also missing Carlos because working together is how we connect emotionally.

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2. How do you handle childcare?

While I’m at school, Carlos stays with all three babies. If he gets construction work, we will have to hire a babysitter. Then when we work on the farm we can take them with us. The twins just lay on their blanket for now. Leon never stops moving. Sometimes he can get into trouble. Our farm is at Carlos’s mom’s place, so he also wanders into her kitchen a lot.

3. Where do you work during the day?

Happily, our farm is just down the street, so we can stroller over there. School is downtown, a ten minute drive.

4. What do you like best about your current set-up?

I love that both my husband and I are stay-at-home parents! We get to eat lunch and dinner together! I love that when I need a hand with the kids, Carlos is right there. And I love that we are really close to Carlos’s family, including nieces and nephews that like to come over and help clean the house or change diapers!

5. What do you find tricky about your current set-up? What would you change if you had a magic wand?

Definitely making time for it all. Like I said, I used to reserve the middle of the day for house work, but we found that the farm needed more time. So now housework is an afterthought. And that’s ok! I try to do it as I go.

6. How does your husband contribute to manage the juggle/house/childcare?

We are definitely partners. He often takes Leon with him while I’m breastfeeding because it really bothers me when he’s climbing on top of me and the twins. He is also responsible for helping Leon is he wakes up in the middle of the night, because I have to feed the twins at night.

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7. Do you have time for yourself? What do you do during that time?

I just finally discovered how to have time for myself! I get up at 5 am while everyone is sleeping!! I go into the kitchen with my ipad, and drink coffee, and answer emails, and read blogs. It is heaven! I find that I am way more patient throughout the day, because I made time for myself, and because I can look forward to my time the next day. No more trying to type with one hand while breastfeeding, or with Leon grabbing the computer. Ahh.

8. What advice would you give to other moms about how to balance work and life?

Ha ha ha! I think this is a trick question. I don’t think it’s about balance as much as go go go! Get used to it. Forget your old life, and definitely don’t compare your life now to the way it was. I also try to remember that in 20 years everything will settle back down and I’ll have time to do whatever I want. Plus I will have the experience to appreciate it.

9. Do you ever wonder how other women manage the juggle? Do you think people are open about it?

Yes, for me I often feel like a slob. I mean, I’m not the only person with kids and a job, and yet my house is too messy. My floors are dirty. There is clutter everywhere. So I often wonder how “they” do it all. But who is they, really? As long as I just stay busy, I don’t have time to compare myself with these fictional moms.

Tamales, estilo Ranchero!

28 Jun

My husband and mother-in-law and sister-in-law often complain about the state of tamales these days. “Pura masa”, they often say–all dough, no filling. They just don’t make things like they used to, do they?

We finally decided to take matters into our own hands. Ooh, what a busy, delicious day!

First we had to fatten the rooster. We got him up to 8 pounds.

Here are the ingredients we used:

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Then we soaked the dried red chilis in hot water.

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We then puréed the chili water mix in the blender. Half we used to marinate the chicken (along with salt and olive oil), and the other half we used to make the dough, or masa.

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Here is my mother in law prepping the masa into balls.

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Meanwhile, everybody was chopping the vegetables. Leon even got in on the action.

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Here’s where it gets really fun and we start assembling the tamales. We did some in banana leaf (preferred by my family because they come out moister), and the rest with corn husk.

You can see a tortilla press in the there. We pressed the dough circles flat onto the leaf or husk, then filled with the ingredients.

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Yummy, looking so delicious!!

Then we used strips of palm frond to tie them off. My mother-in-law prefers datil fronds, but no one went out to the desert to harvest any in time.

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Now, it’s into the pot! We used a grate on the bottom, filled the bottom with water, and set all the tamales on the grate, and we let them cook for about an hour. Except, when we went to check on them, we were out of gas. So we had to hook up an extra gas tank to the stove. Here’s everyone waiting around for the tamales.

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They came out perfect! Now Carlos wants to start a tamale business. Yes yes, in between construction, farming, teaching, and 3 baby boys, I’m sure we will find the time!

Crazy fad dieting

21 Jun

I’ve never wanted to diet. Ever. Not even as a sensitive female teenager. My worst body issue was acne, and I didn’t know that that had anything to do with diet.

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image source

Instead, I’ve always been a strong athlete: volleyball and softball in high school, and rugby in college. Sports were fun and running around makes you feel good about yourself. As a Midwestern-bred farmer, I know that a diet rich in whole, real food is good for us. I’ve never been scared of whole milk, cream, butter, cheese, bacon, or organic grass-fed meats.

Now, breastfeeding twins, I’m literally melting away. They’re eating me alive. So, believe me, I’m not doing this crazy diet to lose weight.

Instead, I’m doing it to see if I have any food sensitives. Not allergies. I obviously don’t have allergies, because I don’t choke or pass out or anything obvious. But it turns out that my body is telling me things.

Like acne. Acne is a sign of inflammation, a sign that something isn’t quite right. Also, the chronic but unidentified upper back and neck pain has always bugged me because I’m healthy! I do yoga! I should not feel like this! Headaches in the morning, stiff joints: I’m too young to feel old.

So I’m following the Whole 30 program. It’s thirty days of no grains, no dairy, no beans, no alcohol, and no added sugar. I’m on day 3. What do I eat? Lots of vegetables, eggs, and meat. I snack on fruit and nuts.

Results so far?
The most obvious is that Peter no longer screams while breastfeeding, or pulls away violently, or spits up tons like before. He is probably sensitive to dairy, even just the little bit that I put in my coffee in the morning.

My energy level is more stable throughout the day, and my brain still works past 9 pm, which is a miracle.

I am less congested.

I seem to wake up easier in the morning, though that could be a mental trick.

Anyway, I’m really excited about this because the testimonials are really encouraging! All these people who thought they were healthy are finding out what healthy really feels like! Oh, and worried moms out there, please don’t worry that I’m starving myself and the babies’ milk will be affected. I always eat when I’m hungry.

I’ve gotta plug the CSA here too. Please sign up right away! We are already at 10 % enrollment, and we just started talking about it, so get your deposit in. If you are interested in eating more vegetables, this is the perfect way to do it. You’ll get a box of veggies every week, and you’ll eat a much bigger variety throughout the season than what you would get at the market.

The search for a maid

30 May

I’ve been overwhelmed with my life for a while now, pretty much since my lovely family returned home to their real lives, leaving me to wrangle Leon. What to do with Leon while I’m nursing?

Our closet has no doors, the perfect playground for somebody whose favorite game is throwing items on the floor.

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I’m usually held captive underneath the twins, watching in distress as Leon wreaks havoc in our bedroom. I know the solution is to maintain everything put away and to figure out a way to get his favorite stuff to throw out of his reach.

But in my overwhelmed state, the only thing I manage to do is watch helplessly while I think about all the work I have to do in addition to picking up everything Leon just threw on the floor. The daily stuff, like dishes and laundry, are usually all I let myself think about, but in the back of my subconscious is the great weight of true house keeping : scrubbing windows and window sills, scrubbing the bathroom, the toilet (ok, I’ll be honest, cleaning the bathroom at all), washing the cars, scrubbing the stains off the kitchen floor, dusting, etc.

I sweep and mop, but I haven’t done any deep cleaning since we moved in (yikes, a year ago).

So I started to think about hiring a maid. Perfect solution, right? After all, I have twins! And an 18 month old! If anyone needs a maid, it’s me, right? I posted on Facebook that I was thinking of hiring a maid to see if anyone had any advice. A few people gave me references, many said I should go ahead and do it, but one person, my old farming mentor and zen teacher, ranted me down!

I also googled it. I typed in, “should i hire a maid”, as if i were seeking counsel from a close friend. Most links were positive, saying that once you do it, you’ll love it. Like Mother, Like Daughter was against it. I clicked around her blog and loved her view on just about everything related to mothering and housekeeping. In regards to cleaning the house she says,

Why do you waste time being bitter about having this responsibility?

Because you’re so highly educated? Because you used to be an executive? Because your mom should help you? Because you could be earning a big salary if, if, if….? Because your girlfriends don’t have to?

Let’s just see. If you are home today and your house is dirty and no one is coming to clean it in an hour, then you have to deal. It’s as simple as that.

Meanwhile I was talking it out with Carlos, who was also against it. It didn’t make any sense to me, after all, we hire help in the garden, and Carlos hires help in construction. As a society, we hire teachers to teach most of our kids, and doctors to cure us. We buy tools and clothing. What’s the difference between all of those things and hiring a cleaning person?

Besides, I thought, having help will help me do all those things I want to do and I’ll have more time to play with my children. Surely this is a good thing, right?

Zen Teacher says I should try to do less not more, so “you can enjoy what you have on hand as opposed to seeking other things that are not a part of you, [because] as you seek these other things your essence will be spread round thinner and thinner”

(I knew he was right! Find satisfaction in the little things, the everyday things, the moment. Or in zen terms, “right here right now”!)

Because really, if I had more time to do what I want to do, wouldn’t I just end up on Facebook, ignoring my children?

While talking it out with Carlos, I came to the conclusion that the difference between hiring help in the garden, or buying clothes and tools, versus hiring a housekeeper is that our home is our personal space, filled with our energy and our love and it is our responsibility/duty/joy (if we have the right attitude) to love it and take care of it.

As Zen Teacher said, “Because it is YOUR home, it is you, what you are, who you are. In every dish, fork, spoon, sheet, pillow, meal, cleansing, it is your soul, your sacred envrionment, created by you to ensure your wholeness to the universe through your own home. Once you hire someone to come between you and this sacredness, you begin to lose touch with the passion, the warmth, and the feeling of love you inspire to your surroundings”.

Wow. I was really only thinking about the question in terms of economics: can we afford to hire a maid? Is it worth it to hire a maid? And then it became a spiritual thing.

I read a book about Amish people and there was a story about an Amish woman whose church loosened the regulations and decided to allow washing machines. Her husband asked her if she wanted one, and she said no because she uses her time washing to pray for her children, and why would she want less time to pray for her children?

A different way of looking at things. On Tuesday I deep-cleaned the bedroom. Leon helped me wash the walls! A bucket of water and a scrub brush is like heaven for Leon. So, rather than take time from my children, cleaning gave us something to do together.

In more farm-related news, our kitchen garden is alive and harvesting! Now, when I’m in the kitchen scrubbing away loving my home, I can look out the window and see I’m not working alone. Home is where the heart is!

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