March is almost coming to an end and It’s time for an update for those of you out there interested in our progress or lack of thereof.
We start where I left you which was around January. That would be THE holiday month of sorts for us farmers/English teachers. For farmers it is just not a good time to sow due to the extreme heat and dry conditions and there is not much harvesting to be done other than tomatoes, zucchinis and round gourds which are picked smoothly and daily, so not much to report there other than that I did a lot of watering, spoiled the tomatoes and we started feasting on the latter. As for teachers, schools are closed and nothing needs to be planned until February. Given these two variables I took the chance to spend time with the kids and took many free afternoons (there is always stuff that needs to be done, even in low season) to go swimming with them to the local abandoned and water filled quarry which is kind of like a public natural swimming pool. We met there with friends and their kids and it was a bit like summer camp kind of feeling. Amazing. The water is crystal clear, not too cold and all the children get along so well it is a pleasure to go there.
Then we went eastwards for two weeks. This time to try a new destination: Punta del Diablo in the Rocha departament. I liked the place a lot. It is unpretentious and not too crowded but you can still find a couple of nice places with vegan food and the beach is really nice (as is all of the Uruguayan coast if you ask me). The weather was quite bad and we got quite a lot of rain but the kids got wet suits for their birthday and had their surf boards from last year so they were in the water a lot anyways. I got my yearly dose of sea as well so all good there. We also played lots of card games and watched movies together, so even though at times it worried me that there was going to be yet another rainy afternoon, it was an excellent way of spending time together because neither me nor Magnus could go anywhere to do anything at all because there was simply nothing to do. It was great for resting. I have, unfortunately, few pictures of this summer because I did not take my phone to the beach and my camera failed me so maybe Magnus can post some some other time.
We got back home by mid February and all the rain had come at once after an extremely dry year. Mamma mia! The grass was super high, everything looked wild and kind of abandoned. It took many days to get the place straight again, or somewhat straight at least. The greenhouse looked like a jungle and I spent a whole day cutting old growth from the old tomato plants so that the new plants could get some light too, they looked all skinny and sad. A whole day might sound little to you, but it is only a 10×3,5 meters greenhouse.
Then I had to hurry to get the potatoes in the ground. This year I tried with a new variety in addition to the usual pink Chieftain. The Chieftain are imported from Canada and apparently come from a lab that grows them from apical stems which gives disease free set potatoes. Or so I’ve been told. They give extremely nice potatoes but they charge USD 50 for a 25 kg bag so it bothers me a bit to have to buy every single year. Thing is you can only keep potatoes to re plant once more, then you are supposed to buy new ones again or otherwise get significantly lower yields. Of course I could test how far this is true but since I never get super high yields to begin with and it is so much work to grow anything at all, I am not so keen on testing this just yet. But I will maybe in the future also because it doesn’t really make sense to be importing potatoes from Canada to South America of all places, it is ridiculous really. So I got hold of another variety which is supposed to be this local variety of white potatoes that are not so nice but can be planted over and over again if one wishes. I’ll give them a try.
Otherwise I have started harvesting delicious sweet potatoes, I’m hoping for a second tomato crop if we manage to get the plastic on the greenhouse in time, I have had more than enough zucchinis and zapallitos and there are a few pumpkins coming along. Peanuts are doing good, but I will wait a bit before harvesting. The corn went insane high and I keep making mistakes when harvesting getting them either too young or too old. Grrhhh. What else… ah, my new onion seedlings are coming along well! Almost 100% germination rates with my own seeds and we still have many onions and garlic left from last year so we might manage without buying any (finally!). I should make a video of it actually because it has taken me so long to succeed. I have planted carrots again and parsnips. I won’t give up on carrots despite my amazingly low success rate as you maybe know from previous posts. One day we will have many, good, normal sized carrots. And maybe parsnip too.
A few weeks ago I attended a seed exchange at a slow food market. I met really nice people and managed to give away quite a few seeds. It was very nice to experience, once again, the frenzy around seed enthusiasts when confronted with jars and bags of the stuff. I will definitely try to organize one myself, maybe for the spring, a bit like the one we organized at Caliu in 2019 but even better. Now I am a bit more experienced and I know of a few ways it could be done differently in order to max the whole experience. It is too important, it needs to be done but it also needs to be done correctly if those seeds really are going to be taken care of and persist. I’m afraid we are going to need them.
I have been thinking of something lately. It came to my attention that we are most likely quite insane. I said to Magnus: “do you realise that we grow part of our food, by saving our own seeds, working the land, getting and/or making soil amendments, growing the seedlings, transplanting, watering, removing trouble insect by hand, harvesting and storing it all, all by ourselves? I treat any fungal problems by spraying plants (with a mixture of water, wood ash and lime) one by one! You are also building a house that has custom built windows, shower, floors, stairs, roof, eventual furniture, etc., all by yourself? That only 5 years ago we knew nothing at all of either farming nor building??? You built me a greenhouse for crying out loud! I never thought I would actually have a greenhouse!” It is a lot of work. The building, farming, the house, the kids, the chickens, cats and dogs, the paid job… When I think of it this way I am a bit impressed by how much we actually get done really.
Well, good thing is maybe, just maybe, I will get a swimming pond some day. Everything is possible apparently.