I met a neighbor when his dog came into our terreno under our gate. We'd been told an animal was coming in, and could see how it/they'd dug away the dust for easier passage. So we attached tree protectors and visibly closed the gap. But this border collie met Booker through the fence and had no trouble nosing under to sniff up close. Something there is that doesn't love a wall.
I guess that's what happened. From our homestead we can't see the gate (we're considering remedies cause this is a drag, but we also don't want to hang out exposed at the gate). I noticed Booker and Hannah were both gone from my side and that's unusual, so just as I was getting up to investigate I heard Hannah barking and saw her running toward the border collie smelling Booker.Hannah?! If you know her you know she's afraid of dogs and would rather hide than have to sniff one.But she was clear, "get out of here" and ran toward him (but didn't get too close).
I saw a boy a few meters down the road and called out "Hola, buenas tardes, is this your dog?" And just as I realized I'd switched to English he was speaking back in English, saying it was his dog.
We stuck up a conversation through the chain link fence, even shaking fingers through a diamond. I should've let him in but we lock the gate with a long heavy chain wrapped around and around and then stick a padlock through it, so it's awkward.
Emilio, age 13, lives next door with his older brother and parents. I learned about their previous dogs (some sad stories) and this border collie, Torce, named "twist" for the way he held his head crooked and one ear was crooked as a puppy.
As Emilio and I got acquainted, Torce got to know our dogs. The boys love him but Hannah kept vigil out of smell range.
If you read a previous post you know that dogs were the impetus for meeting neighbors a couple weeks ago with abundant negativity. I'm relieved that a good dog encounter can precipitate a pleasant neighbor meeting.
Torce came back four more times that day, and Hannah took off running and barking at him again, but maybe just once.
Assuming she warms up to him I don't mind if Torce comes over, he's adorable and gentle. But what if our dogs follow him out? They won't understand traffic and might not understand how to get back in.
The next morning I saw another dog was coming in curious, so I started bringing rocks up to fill the gap. Concrete will be better since we all need to drive through this gate, and so a strong dog doesn't just dig it all out.
I haven't been eating much since I've got some bug, and it gets hot quickly here. Standing up with rocks I had to grab the wall to keep from falling - after the fifth time I quit. There are so many people working in the sun all day here and I'm sure a bunch of them live with stomach bugs, so I want to gain some endurance (and I think we better filter the water we're using to wash our hands and dishes, cause that's probably my problem - we are sunning the dishes though!). Work on the gap continued in the cool of the day.
Perhaps Emilio recounted our pleasant exchange to his mother because when she next drove by and I was in view, she stopped to chat and, I'm relieved, speaks fluent English (they spent a year in Canada), since I haven't made much progress with Spanish.
So we've met half the neighbors on one side, two more sets of next-door neighbors to go. Thanks Torce! Cause it is challenging to meet neighbors when the only shared space is the road, no one has front porches or any living space near the road, and somehow I have the impression that showing up with a plate of cookies would be totally weird. But we are really weird, so I just might try.
The two 3-gallon shower bags we got for Christmas are working perfectly. It's sunny enough up here we could probably shower every hour from 12-4. Morning showers are cold, but maybe we'll experiment with putting hot bags in a cooler or sleeping bag and see how long that keeps the heat.
The only strong and tall enough place to attach the shower bags so far is the van. Yesterday I installed a tarp as a privacy wall, but the wind blows it up so these showers are only private if neighbors aren't trying to see what we're up to. So 3 gallons is more than enough water for a shower because we're rushing. I think I'll wash my hair after dark.
Soon we'll erect a teepee-style shower cabana which will solve the privacy issue but also provide flexibility, since we can carry it wherever we want to water the land.
We had a fun weekend with my uncle and his partner, planning to move out to the land Sunday. Over Chinese lunch (comida, so 4pm) Edith said she didn't think we should go yet, that we wouldn't be secure and should stay with them or at a friend's airbnb-style house, until we could get some hut built. As we talked more, with my uncle's translation, we learned that she's not worried about our own safety so much as our stuff, that she expects anytime we leave for more than an hour we should expect someone will try to steal our stuff.
We do plan to build a shack and have an idea about security (hint:root cellar) but that will take a few days. And once we move any of our stuff to the land we have to stay with it. And the trek between their hood and the land is about 20 minutes and includes muffler-stealing roads.
So we moved out and we'll try to not both leave until we have some sort of secure space. The good thing about theft here is that if we come amidst a robbery we can expect the thieves to run (not fight) but the seriously lousy thing is that people will steal anything: clothes, dishes...not just the "valuable" stuff like tools and electronics. We'd been expecting to secure the "valuable" stuff (and tried to bring as little as possible) but if our clothes and cooking pots are stolen that will be such a hassle.
Of course, this land is a glorious place to be tethered to. We do like navigating Spanish together, and we'd rather be together all the time, but being stuck to this spot is still a treat.
We moved over, as in, drove the van with all our belongings, Sunday evening in time to get minimally situated before dark. I have many more fun photos but can't upload them through the weebly app, so when I go somewhere with wifi I'll post more.
Why El Terreno Reverdercer?
This land we're relating to on the outskirts of Morelia has life, thirsty life, hungry life. As we spend time here we'll be shaping the earth to slow water, slowing erosion, watering life deeper into this land. Permaculture is one way to name the harmonious living we're striving for, but it's simply a new name for the way life usually lives, interconnected and thriving.
In a couple days there will be a big old green van and three old dogs and two happy vagabonds living here.
We're not living on El Terreno yet, because we're staying at my uncle's place while he's traveling. In a week we'll be out there, living in the van again, setting up some shacks for us, chickens, goats, and scouting out pond sights. Those are the first priorities.
When we started talking with my uncle about doing this on the land he's owned for nearly 20 years, he was glad for someone with more time to dig in. He said he'd just planted "a few trees" over the years, but it's actually about 50. I look forward to telling you more about them in the months to come. Here are some pictures of El Terreno, now, much greener than we expected for the end of the dry season! Hover over each for notes.
One of our favorite things about our first week in Morelia is biking. it's not as scary as we expected, and I much prefer biking to driving (in any country). Actually, I haven't tried driving in Mexico yet, though Phillip is a natural. But Morelia's parking rules are infamously obtuse and we're not chancing parking unless we need to drive for dogs or something.
We bike to and from Spanish school every day, which is about 5km and google maps says it should take 15 minutes, but it takes 20-30 with long lights, heavy traffic, and so many baches (potholes) and topes (speed bumps). We're biking to stores, too, though I'm not sure we'll be able to bike between my uncle's home and the land where we'll be living (it just might not be worth it since we'd have to walk our bikes for some "roads" that are hardly drive-able. We'll see.
I think biking here is only slightly more scary than biking on Cold Springs Rd (Huntingdon PA) cause the cars are way faster there. How much of my attention I need to put towards biking is circumstantial
Other than this special occasion, advertising the bike rental company bicicom, I've seen about, maybe 8 other cyclists on each trip I take downtown (maybe 3 when I just go for groceries). There doesn't seem to be any consensus on how bikes behave within traffic, some use sidewalks, most use the street. I haven't seen other cyclists wait for signals or wait within a lane when a sidewalk was an optional detour. So I'm starting to use those tactics.
Overall, being on a bike among cars, trucks and pedestrians feels safer here than in the US. The part that feels more dangerous is simply the state of the roads - that I have to either charge through a terrible pothole or messy manhole, or dart around and risk being smashed by the truck behind me. I don't think I'll ever successfully bike eggs from the store here, the way I generally could in the US. Soon we'll move to the land and get chickens and I don't think we can deliver them successfully by anything but drone over the roads up there!
Being in traffic feels safer here because people are going slower (due to crappy roads) and because, overall, people are watching all around much more attentively than in the US. I make much more eye contact with drivers and pedestrians here than anywhere else I've biked, because we're all looking up, looking around, negotiating. Traffic rules may not be posted as consistently, but they're consistently common sensical. In the centro, where we have Spanish class, most roads are one-way and most intersections are uno en uno, so one car gets to go from one street, then one from the other, etc.
The roads remind me of India, but less chaos: India's drivers use their horns constantly, here it's more frequent than the US but nothing like India. Here there are occasional dogs on the road (sadly, sometimes dead) and even occasionally a cow (sadly, sometimes dead) but most trips I don't see loose animals in the road. Here there are vehicles without headlights or taillights, perhaps as common as in India. Here lane boundaries are porous and shoulders are used as lanes, but one any street I could say how many theoretical lanes there are (not necessarily in India). The harder thing in Mexico might be that when the road is in good condition people speed up as much as possible, then have to slam the brakes at the next tope or bache. In India that was true on highways, but smaller roads had, perhaps, a more consistent low quality so speed was rather even. One great reason to bike - I won't lose my muffler on a tope.
We went to Los Azufres Park last week to see some of the geothermal wells and to hike. An inactive volcano heats underground springs so the geothermal wells are a little like geysers. Max has neuropathy and is mostly blind, so we carried him most of the hike, which contributed to feeling way out of shape in this high altitude! But we're motivated to keep moving and breathing because this hike was 1/8 of the way to a monarch home (San Andres, the mountain in the picture) and we hope to go back this winter and get there.
The geothermal wells produce 250 MW, which apparently is a lot (I still don't speak electricity). Not sure what the waste products are, other than noise, but there must be some.
The procession used to be (at least more) silent and solemn, but now it's bordering on a parade. The sales officially stop (or at least move away from the street) during the procession.
The next day we witnessed an old Semana Santa tradition, people dressing up as a bull and other "scary" creatures to scare people into confessing their sins and restoring/claiming faith during Holy Week. I don't know how long ago it stopped being scary, but it was definitely captivating!
We thought the hardest part of living in Mexico would be biking and driving on the roads. Or that the hardest thing about Mexico would be learning Spanish.
All legit challenges.
But the hardest part of living in Mexico so far is the dogs and the people.
Specifically, the beastly strong dogs that belong to my uncle and his partner, and some people in the neighborhood.
Puki is a young pit mix, and seriously, he's just stronger than the rest of us. Even our cousin Ben who visited for a couple weeks, one of the strongest people we know who bikes up mountains to get "a little" exercise - even Ben had trouble walking Puki cause Puki is one strong dude.
Luna isn't as strong physically but still has pit bull in her and even her large belly and short legs don't disguise it.
We've been worried about Puki and Luna mixing with our dogs, not wanting any jealousy or cultural misunderstandings. Puki wants to play and our dogs don't understand, but no problems yet. Max has been nursing a big bruise and all his usual aches and pains, so he growls at Puki and Luna when they're crowding him, and they just back off. Knowing that Puki or Luna could end our dogs with a powerful bite, we're staying vigilant, but so far all five are getting along.
We're not leaving them alone together. While my uncle and his partner are in Argentina we're dogsitting. I leave on my bike at 8:30am for Spanish class, Phillip joins me a couple hours later and we share one hour of class, then I come home to the dogs while he stays for two more hours. Our dogs wait in the van those two hours, sleeping then whining, and Puki and Luna have the house to themselves. Pets...los amamos.
Un Dia Muchisimo Malo
Yesterday afternoon we wanted to take compost out to El Terreno, the land where we'll be living after dogsitting. Taking all five dogs seemed like too much for one vehicle, esp since Puki likes to roam the car and Max falls down a lot.
But as we prepare our three to go, all five think they're getting an adventure and enthusiastically jump all over each other. Happy they're teamed up in glee, I don't want to break the momentum and leave Puki and Luna to feel jealous as our three go. Unfortunately I suggest that Phillip start walking Puki and Luna while I walk our three to the pickup, and then I'd join him to help with one trip around the block, then we'd go in the truck.
Max gets caught in his leash, Booker needs to sniff everything, and Puki is just raring to GO, so I'm behind Phillip half a block when I notice a loose dog heading toward him in the street. He sees it too, and knowing it could agitate Puki and Luna, he moves them to the far edge of the sidewalk. What he can't see on the other edge of a brick wall is a dog (turns out his name is Honey) gearing up to engage Puki and Luna. He sticks his head through the gate and barks something like "get the hell off my sidewalk" and Puki and Luna respond ferociously.
I hear it before I can see it: yowling, barking and Phillip shouting "no!" again and again.