Thursday, May 18, 2017

How does your garden grow?

It has been a busy week in the campo.

Having finished the first gate which is to the left of the house and is open in this picture.



Danilo built the second gate to the right. Same sort of idea, branches and barbed wire.




The front garden will be filled with flower beds, avocado trees, a gravel and concrete driveway and benches to sit on. The gate has an ingenious closing mechanism involving a bit of metal and a bit of wire.


Behind this gate is my secret vegetable garden. It is walled so no dogs can get in there, no chickens and no cockerels.

I have tried for years to grow vegetables with almost zero success. I have read the seed packets carefully, planted seeds to the right depth in a straight line, put the packet on a stick at the end of each row so I know what I have planted, and they have not worked.

So I decided to plant Dominican style. No digging little rows, no cleaning the soil of stones and making it nice and fine. Just chuck the seeds down, don't mark with seed packets on sticks, and wait and see what happens. It didn't take long.

Tomatoes


These are peas (proper peas not Dominican pigeon peas) or could be green beans or Hava beans. Who knows, but this is in less than a week..


This could be radishes, or cucumbers maybe, or carrots.


Green peppers - or maybe red or yellow? Do they change colour or are they born red or yellow?


More mysteries. Could broccoli or cauliflower or maybe lettuce?


And more can't remember what I planted although could be chilli peppers.


And this is lemon grass - essential for Thai cookery.


Meanwhile I thought Danilo had had enough of building gates, but he has spent all of the last three days in the back garden, which is full of flowers near the house and then around an acre or so which is overgrown. He has been putting Mr. Trump to shame and is building a fence, quicker than the Mexican Wall, all around the bottom part of the garden.


Not only between the flower part of the garden and the lower part, but around the whole of the lower part. I spotted the stepsons putting wire way down the bottom.


Now why do we need to put in a new fence and improve the fencing around the rest I asked myself. It appears we are going into the goat breeding business. What he and I know about goats could be written on a postage stamp, but when I ask the locals and tell them we are going to have goats they all say the same;

"They escape"
"They eat everything'
"Their pee stinks"
"They need a copper supplement"

The joy of keeping goats is fast approaching. I just hope they will be more successful than the guinea fowl business, the duck business, the turkey business and the bee business. Watch this space.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Goodbye to Barbara

My neighbour Barbara has died. She was diagnosed with cancer, multiple myeloma around two years ago. This a cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow. It does not have a good prognosis and even less here with the cost of chemotherapy being out of the reach of most people. When people say "she died following a long illness, bravely borne," that was Barbara. She had to spend most of her time in Santiago having dialysis as her kidneys failed almost as soon as she was diagnosed and as time went on her bones started to crumble. She must have been in tremendous pain - pain management not being the best here. She was no more than 50 years old and was the centre of our little campo, always laughing, helping people, and is sorely missed.

While her husband Miguel was away with her in Santiago last week, I was feeding his dog and his chickens.I had no choice over the chickens as if I didn't feed them, mum, dad and 13 babies would come to the gate and squawk at me till I fed them.


No to be outdone, we have  a few chickens here with babies. Here is Pollo Negra with her nine chicks, eight are black and one white! The other black ones are all keeping warm underneath her.


And at last the wall is finished in the front garden. Danilo decided we needed two gates, one large one on one side, in case we need to get vehicles into the back of the property and a small one for me to get into my veg patch on the other side. I thought gates looked like well, gates. This is a series of sticks held together with barbed wire, but it works and will double up as a washing line for my knickers and socks.


Now just the little gate to go and Lobo can be allowed out of the dog house.

All fine on the book front. The title is "Life After My Saucepans" and then a sub heading of "Lifting the Lid on Living in the Dominican Republic". I have done the front and back bits and sent off the photos and some reviews of What About Your Saucepans? so now just waiting for the editor to get back to me and keep on working on it.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Saucepans 2 is on the way

Far too long again so apologies. Usual excuse that I have been busy. In fact I have finished Book 2!! It has no title yet - apart from Saucepans 2, so I am still mulling over what to call it. It is now with the editor, who will start on it shortly and then she will send it back to me with all of the changes I  need to make. Once I have done that, then I have to do the front bits like Chapter headings page, dedication, acknowledgments etc and the back bits - biography. After that it goes to the proof reader, then to the designer, then we get a front cover, the typesetting is done and off we go to print. I will let you know when it is ready.

Life has pottered on as normal in the meantime. Danilo has finished his semester at university. And great joy, I was sitting at my laptop a couple of weeks ago and heard beeping at the gate. It was fishman and we hadn't seen him for months, so I assumed he was dead. Luckily he was not, but had fallen off his bike and hurt his leg and on top of that his wife left him.  Apparently men cannot live alone here so he had to get his 90 odd year old mother to move in with him. Anyway he had a six pound snapper so we bought it, and decided that if Danilo passed maths then we would eat it, and in the meantime put it in the freezer.


I should explain that Danilo and maths do not go together but to get his degree he has to pass three maths exams. He passed one and two in the first year with a lot of help from yours truly, but couldn't face number three. I didn't understand  it either - it was the table of truth whatever that is. So he just left it, but now he has only 4 courses to go he had to pass it, or would not qualify. So with extra tuition at university, help from me, lots of you tube videos, he actually passed. In total this semester he had 2 A's, 2 B's and 2 C's. Now only four to go. And we ate the fish!


Work is continuing apace on the wall and every Sunday stepkids Alberto and Dany, Saya the dwendy, Ana and the baby, turn up to build the wall (and to eat and use the wifi). Today they are doing the second side of the front garden so at least Lobo the husky can be let out of his dog house and roam free in the garden. If there are any holes he will disappear and never be seen again.

My jeep is sick again, the clutch is stuck open, so it has gone off to the hospital to have that fixed and the windscreen wipers so that I can drive in the rain, oh, and the brakes as well. Not looking forward to the bill.

Albert and Chivirico are both fine, busy mopping the floor as I write. Dogs and cats are fine as well - nice not to have any major disasters for a few weeks!

Next post I should be able to give you an update on Saucepans 2.





Saturday, March 4, 2017

Beware of the medical powers of Dominican women

Apologies for taking such a long time to blog. Usual excuse - busy with writing second book, deadline is the end of April so I need to get on with it.

Not an awful lot of news from the mountain. Danilo has nearly qualified as a lawyer, and is allowed to practise certain types of law now. For this he had to buy his toga as they call it, and his birette. I call it a cloak and a hat with a pom pom.

The toga is historically associated with professionals and upper class people, going back to Roman days, but now, in the Dominican Republic it is used by judges, prosecutors and lawyers. It has to be worn with a white shirt and black tie, and a black suit, although they can get away with a neutral or dark colour suit.

The pom pom hat is black and hexagonal, and judges have a purple pom pom, prosecutors a blue one and lawyers a white one. He is not smiling in the photo as lawyers are supposed to be serious!


In the meantime, I have been sick again which is most unlike me. This time it started with vomiting in the middle of the night - non stop. Danilo was concerned and called a neighbour, Angela and she came round even though it was 3 am. She immediately took charge, took my pyjamas off and plonked me naked on the toilet. She then proceeded to pour jugs of cold water over me, starting on my head, dried me off, put me back to bed and mopped up the flooded bathroom. It worked in that I stopped being sick - only to start again in the morning.

The next day she came around with the well known cure for everything, chicken soup, and ginger tea. As I was try to force some soup down, she pointed out that she had a gift for curing people, and when neighbours, Sukin and Leida had had sugar attacks (diabetics) she had done the same and cured them. I pointed out somewhat dryly that they were both dead now, around 3 months after her magical cure, so I was not convinced of her curative powers.

Albert and Chivirico playing loads of baseball at the moment, and they are both apparently good, according to El Manager. Here they are today, just back from a game. The difference in height is amazing, considering there is only 8 months difference in age - I call them Mop and Bucket.



Friday, January 20, 2017

The sad tale of the Maguey

We have had this spiky plant in the garden ever since I have been here. It does nothing, just sits in the grass being very spiky. I assumed it was some sort of aloe vera, but we have those too, and the leaves of those are much thicker, and we use the gunk in the leaves to cure any cuts or burns.

A couple of months ago, Danilo called me outside to show me that the spiky plant now had a shoot, about 6 foot tall and said that there would be flowers on it, which would be yellow.


All seemed most odd to me, so I asked knowledgeable Facebook friends who told me the plant was called an agave or maguey in Dominican Spanish and although it looked like an aloe vera it was a totally different family.



What is really sad is that the plant just sits there being spiky for up to 10 years, then up comes this amazing shoot or stick in the middle of the plant, it flowers and then dies. Luckily the seeds then fall on the ground and baby magueys are born.

Apparently, if the flower stem is cut without allowing it to flower, a sweet liquid called aguamiel ("honey water") gathers in the heart of the plant which can  be fermented to produce a drink called pulque. In Mexico, there is a blue version of the plant called Mezcal which is used to make tequila. In addition, the leaves also have fibres in them, known as pita, which can be used for making rope or matting. In fact the Taino Indians used to use the plant for both purposes.

We didn't cut the stalk or the leaves and I was really excited when the yellow flowers started to arrive and took a photo.


The flowers were lovely and covered the whole stalk.


Danilo told me the show was not over, the flowers would change colour, and then a couple of weeks later, now they are beginning to change colour, starting at the bottom.



And what a colour! The orange colour of the ones at the bottom is glorious, but it is so sad that once they are all orange, the stalk will fall over and the plant will die.










Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Christmas 2016

Christmas approached once again, and had it not been for the kids, Albert and Chivirico we would probably have treated it as just another day, but they were desperate to write their lists for Santa Claus and put up the tree – so both were done. The tree appeared to have lost many of its baubles, but was fine and amazingly the lights still worked. The fairy had no head so was replaced by a little bear.


The lists for Santa were identical for both and not quite the same as the lists Santa  had from Dany and Alberto some 15 years or so ago, which were: one t-shirt, one pair of tennis shoes, one pencil and Albert wanted peanut butter. These lists were long, brand orientated and expensive: iPad (Aipa), iPhone, tablet, laptop, Jordan and Nike tennis shoes, 5 t-shirts, 5 pairs of trousers, radio controlled car, plane, helicopter, loads  of baseball gear, roller skates, bicycle and buoquitoki (walkie talkie) etc etc. Santa nearly had a heart attack. Luckily I had been busy in the month so we could just manage one thing each – a tablet - made in China.

Albert went to Esperanza to stay with Chivirico for the few days before Christmas giving Danilo a chance to wrap presents.


Danilo had done all of the shopping, including for himself, so I had no idea what I was supposedly giving him! It turned out to be a sweatshirt and he had toothpaste from the dogs and soap from the cats. he brought me two pairs of knickers - one with a Wifi symbol on the front and another with a start button. .I think they would go down a treat in Marks and Spencer (famous British clothing shop with good quality). Given the kids are out of work, he bought presents for everyone to give everyone - I even had a pack of cotton buds from Saya!



The kids arrived along with Alberto and Dany, Ana and grandbaby and Saya the dwendy and some strange man. We always seem to have strange men here for Christmas lunch. Having opened presents, the kids found a note in the bottom of their stockings  (which were full of things like deodorant, soap, an apple, socks) which sent them off on a treasure hunt to find Santa’s gifts.



 The Santa sacks were hidden inside a pile of blocks being used to build the wall. Joy all around when they discovered their tablets.


This was followed by British Christmas turkey lunch – well apart from sprouts and parsnips and cranberry sauce and stuffing and Christmas pudding. Replaced by rice and peas, Russian salad and ordinary salad.


While I was cooking lunch, and Ana making the rice and peas, the men were doing what men do best - nothing.


Then, just before lunch the boys all went out to check on Danilo’s latest money making venture – honey making. He had a little swarm of bees living in a cat carrier (no  idea how) and had built a beehive out of the wardrobe door.


Beeman had been and transferred bees including the Queen to the beehive - please note this involves using yet another of my kitchen knives.


The menfolk went to check the bees while yours truly cooked lunch. Disaster, the bees had gone on holiday. Beeman was called (yes it was Christmas day) and collected in the car, along with his six kids. He announced the queen had left and there were no more bees. End of money making project. Danilo invited him and his kids for lunch (while I silently panicked) but when Danilo said it was English food, they made their apologies and left (phew!).

Chivirico stayed for the whole of the holidays and the three kids – Albert, Chiv and Danilo (the big kid), played together all day long. Danilo asked if they wanted to play pico gallo (pico means a beak and gallo is a cockerel or rooster). They excitedly said yes and rushed outside to see how to play. Danilo demonstrated putting a 6 inch long bread roll in his crotch with a bit sticking out and the roosters fly up and peck it. Peck the pecker. I was laughing too much to take photos and the kids refused to play, even for 100 pesos. But the money went up and eventually Danilo offered 1000 pesos to the winner – whose bread was pecked off first. The temptation was too great, but they decided to go one more, and I was distractedly working  on the computer when I looked up to see Albert and Chivirico taping  a bread roll each to their willies with black electrical tape. They then asked me to go outside and video them playing Pico Gallo. I explained I did not want to be arrested for child abuse, so persuaded them to unstick the bread rolls (harder than sticking them on!) and just put the bread in their hands.


Here they are playing such an exciting game.



Chiv won, but wasn’t allowed to claim the reward as he had played peck the hand not peck the pecker. And here is the video of the boys discussing what they would do and playing the game.


Every day was a new challenge for the boys, ranging from building more chicken houses, to building the wall, to cooking cup cakes, birthday cakes, playing chess, planting avocados, making pancakes and when the end of the holidays came, I was grateful for the return to normality although I missed the constant laughter.

Danilo is back at University, taking six subjects so only four to go – one more semester after this one and Si Dios Quiere I will be a woman of leisure, and get back to writing book 2.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

How (not) to have a heart attack in the DR

I haven’t been to hospital or even to see the doctor since I was shot 10 years ago. I find Dr. Google to work very well, plus being able to buy most meds over the counter, and this method has got me through Zika, Shingles and coughs and colds. I haven’t had smears, mammograms, tests nada. And I am always aware here, following previous experience, that if something goes wrong there is no professional 911 or ER to fix it – well not where I live.

So, on December 30, I was watching the TV at around 8 pm when I had a sharp pain on the left side of my chest. Sort of in the heart area. It went and then returned, and returned again and again and by now was taking my breath away. I took my blood pressure which was very very low, most unlike me as I take pills for high blood pressure and it is normally the upper side of normal. My pulse was also much slower than normal.

Every time I breathed, and even if I didn't breathe, the pain returned and by now I was getting a tad concerned as Google just said if you have chest pains go to the ER lol.

I told Danilo, and he decided to take me to the hospital as if I died and he had done nothing, he said he would be in trouble. Good enough reason to go I thought. There were however, two minor problems with his decision. Firstly he had lent the car to Saya (dwendy Number one) so we had no car and also we have no health insurance. No problem, he calls Saya who rushes back to the house and off we go to the public hospital in Moncion, up the mountain which is free, as all public hospitals are. The kids insisted on coming, Chivirico and Albert as nothing Dominicans support you more in, than medical issues. And as Chivirico said, if I died, he wanted to be there at the end. That made me feel better.

We arrived, and were seen within seconds – no other patients. The nurse apologized but said there was no doctor at the hospital – he had gone in an ambulance with a pregnant patient. She took my blood pressure which was still low and said there was no ECG machine, but she said you might be having a heart attack and she did have a stethoscope if that would help? We thought not and left for the private clinic in Moncion which is the Clinica Morel (isn't that a mushroom?), keeping our fingers crossed it would be cheap and I warned Danilo not to let them make me stay in.

We arrived and it looked like a proper hospital, with curtains, bays, an xray light box – and a man watching baseball on the TV. He ran off and within seconds I was ushered onto a stretcher in one of the curtained off bays and a nurse and doctor arrived. Dominican medics never ask permission they just do – so within seconds a drip was stuck in my arm (very professionally zero pain), I was hooked up to a blood pressure and pulse machine which bleeped I so assumed that was a good sign. The nurse was sticking injections in the drip and when I asked what they were, I was told “medicine”. Hmm I hoped it wasn’t expensive medicine.  I asked again what they were and she said  as I had said I wasn’t allergic to anything so it didn’t matter what they were! This is typical behaviour. The patient is not supposed to ask questions as the Doctor knows best.

The doctor then did an ECG which involved taking my bra off as it had underwire. The doctor is not allowed to do it so asked a family member to come in. Danilo entered the bay and began the struggle with the bra. He had no clue lol. Obviously never practiced as a youth taking bras off the back of chairs with a blindfold on!  He said he had forgotten. Eventually bra was off and ECG was normal. Yay time to leave, but no, we had to call the cardiologist. He was watching baseball upstairs so doctor took him the print out, and he said fine but keep her in for observation. Again normal practice but no way was I spending an expensive night in the clinic, even though the idea of peace and quiet was bliss as I had loads of work to do and in reality I was fine, still in chest pain but I knew it was not heart related and was not about to pop my clogs so I discharged myself, paid US$40 and off we went home in time to see the end of Top Chef.

It turned out I have a cracked rib, which is fine unless I move. This was caused by Danilo and the boys enlisting my assistance to carry out bench presses when they were in our garden gym – and decided to use me as the weight which involved lifting me up in the air, holding me by my chest. Someone – methinks Danilo – obviously grabbed the weight (me) too tightly.

Moral of the story. Don’t allow yourself to be used as weights and the local clinic appears to be very professional which makes feel better for the next trauma in no less than hopefully 10 years.