Friday, March 28, 2014

Free Range Friday ~ The Rollercoaster Garden

As many are aware, growing food in the tropics, which seems like an ideal environment, can be a little tricky. Especially if you live on an island that has a lower, smaller footprint than any neighboring islands. Thunderheads will build up up dramactically, puffing themselves hundreds of feet into the sky, glowering with rain menace on every side and in one minute they are gone. Now the sun is shining, the sky a strenghthening blue. While over on Vieques or barely out at sea, rain will be pouring down, out of reach, out of conserving, out of usability. That is the tropics of Culebra.

Through the magic mangroves

So close and yet...

Yes, those are waterspouts! rain for us
There are many here who still try though, and with high success. In a place where you don't just jump in your car and drive a quick drive to buy good food, the best alternative really is to grow your own. Herbs, tomatoes, lettuces, squash, hot peppers, we'll give them a go. Even garlic (which is still thriving, by the way).

I planted squash, cantaloupe and cukes in my compost bin. This is one of them, probably the squash but I'll find out (if the iguanas leave the blooms alone). You can see by my not at all dainty foot how huge the leaves and bloom are.

Gardens feed the soul and the body

Cukes? Melon?

The blossom from the day before had closed, this is another from early morning today.

 Two kinds of basil, rosemary and mint. This was to be a gift until the chickens/iguanas/horse? got to it and it had to be started again, too late to give. Yet.

Nancy's NJ garlic is thriving, along with spring onions and...something else that is doing fine but I forget what it was. Radishes? No. Ah well, another surprise if they make it that far!
I do know what these are, aji cabellero peppers, the Puerto Rican pepper that looks and tastes like a Thai pepper. Small, red and fiery! The ones I grew before lasted through about 4 years. Really. Then one day they all just died. I gave the stalks a proper burial for performing over and above the call of duty.
The wee herb garden gift above was to be for my friends David and Debbie, they of the banana crepes. Instead, I came home yesterday to my porch laden with gifties of fruits and nuts and chocolate and a beautiful herb garden, all herbs I don't have. David loves to cook, Debbie loves to garden. It works. And I get the beauty of what is created.

My  basil like this got eaten up. Iguana? Chicken? Who knows, but hooray and thank you!

Dill, marjoram, mint, and something I'm not sure of.

Then, coming back from feeding my own chickens (who don't have a chance to wreck anything) I saw this. Debbie does really cool things with twines and found objects. This was hanging in one of the trees, as if it had been there forever.

At first I thought it was yarn she had intricately woven. But it isn't that.

Rather, it's fishing net or line of some kind, with a lot of sea growth on it. Luckily it became art before it became the death of some hapless creature in the water. I love it!
David and Debbie represent the best sort of visitors. At the beach every day, they pick up all the trash they see. They patronize our markets, our restaurants, and our local businesses (like D's Garden). They are here for the beauty, the quiet and enjoying time with each other. They know there can be longish waits for service and set their expectations accordingly, knowing Culebra business owners aren't really set up to feed/serve/wait on some of the very large crowds we've had lately. Kindness begets kindness, and that's how we (should) roll.

My supervisor
Food for the body. Food for the soul. I can't grow everything I eat in my yard, but something is better than nothing. There are those who do grow almost everything they consume and I have a deep, good kind of envy, knowing the harvest includes a hell of a lot of work, but oh! To have on your plate food that has no worry of poisons, a much better flavor, and that came from your own hands - and back and knees.

Plant something.

Have a find food freedom Friday. Do something fruitful.


  1. How very nice, MJ, thank you so much. We have been coming to Culebra for 9 years and this year was an extra special visit. So many of the business owners we deal with on Culebra told us we were more friend to them than customer. What a wonderful compliment. People in the neighborhood where we stay, always remember us and are glad to see us, and we them. Culebra is a wonderful island with wonderful people. Hopefully that won't change. Oh, the herb with the small leaves is thyme. I add them to dishes at the very end of cooking. Hold the stem with one hand and the leaves with fingers and thumb of other hand. pull the stem and the leaves fall off. Discard stem, leaves are kind off lemony with delicate flavor.

    1. Ah, thyme, of course it's thyme! Thanks for the cooking hint, I'm already imagining it in something yummy.