Oct 13, 2011 – First day in the Yucatan

It has been, as usual, a whirlwind since arriving in Cancun on Wednesday evening. Danny picked me up at the airport and we drove to his house in Valladolid. I will try to relate the high points of each day to give you a taste of the operations of our company, Organica Maya, and for you to make your own conclusions about how crazy Danny and I are together.

Wednesday evening, over shots of a bottle of tequila I bought him from the airport store, we started planning all the work needed in the coming 2 weeks of my stay, especially in relation to our second lamb roasting party coming up on Saturday, October 22nd. The other main focus was the transition from Pedro managing the sheep herd to Jorge, the local vet, taking over many of those tasks. And this had to be done before Pedro left for Chile on October 20th.

Another important aspect to all our plans was the rain in the forecast over the coming days. Difficult for some of the work to be accomplished when it is pouring, such as the weeding of the agave fields, which is in progress and the welders can’t weld when it is raining. Not to mention the mud and roads, etc. There are several storms forecast to keep the skies gray and the rain to come on and off and we will be dealing with this reality for at least the next 4-5 days. We hope it clears up for our party on the 22nd.

Thursday morning out the door at 7am, kind of late for Danny, we dropped his daughter Fer at school in town and drove down to Susula to check out things and figure out how to get one of our local stone masons to start working in the picnic area on stone walls and other stuff. The picnic area was selected because of the large “pich” trees (pronounced like peach) in the center creating a good amount of shade. We have to build a fire pit and since the ground is all limestone we figured we would get Filipe, our main stone mason, to build a fire pit above ground from stone and cement. He was not at home, off working in Playa, so we arranged with our shepherd Luciano, for Antonio, another stone mason, to start working in the picnic area on Friday.

Luciano our #1 shepherd

Picnic area grown up over the summer

Driving down to Susula on the dirt local road in the forest we always are passing Mayans on bicycles with loads of wood, shotguns for hunting and sometimes coming from working on their family land. Sometimes Danny knows them and this morning we stopped and talked to a neighbor who was carrying a sack of food on his back. He immediately offered us each an ear of roasted corn and some Mayan flat  corn bread that he cooked on his land and voila, we had breakfast on the run. Very interesting and delicious chewy roasted corn and great corn “tortilla.”

On the way down we also contacted our welder, Poncho, to organize the building of the birthing shed for the sheep. The foundation was build already, 2/3 of the area for 16 birthing stalls and 1/3 for storage of tools and equipment and a work bench to fix and sharpen tools. The rains did not come until later in the day and Poncho and crew were able to start welding the metal frame into place.

Back side of corral shed to be new shed for birthing stalls and tool workshop

Then we designed what we needed to do to finish the solar fan powered composting toilet next to the palapa so that our lamb roast visitors would have a private toilet to use for the party. I had brought the solar fan unit on a previous trip and the “closet” was built but no vent or door or toilet seat.

Great to see our sheep again and some of the offspring of our registered ram “Chan Hugo”. They are healthy and much larger and stronger looking than other lambs, and also very curious when I came over to their pen in the protection of the shed.

Sweet lamb of "Chan Hugo"

Sweet lamb of "Chan Hugo"

Curious lambs of "Chan Hugo"

Then back to Valladolid to do errands and finalize plans before leaving for Merida in the morning. Suddenly Danny’s boot sole was flopping in the wind so off to the shoe repair shop where he already had another pair waiting for him.

Shoe Repair Shop in Valladolid

Danny switching boots at the shoe repair shop

Then off to the hardware store for parts for making the door for the composting toilet closet.

Valladolid's largest hardware store

But I also found out that Fran, whose family owns and runs this largest hardware and paint store in Valladolid, is also a teacher and trainer on how to make organic herb products. She teaches classes and we look forward to her leading classes for Friends With Pishan when we have tours where groups are interested in this knowledge.  We purchased from her a jar of bug repellent made from Neem oil and tobacco and scented with citronella. Very interesting smell and very curious how well it works for us “gringos.”

Fran and Danny at the hardward store counter

Then we picked up Jorge, our new Vet and sheep manager, and his wife Nidia and our task was to pick up a generator for the welders to use in the coming days. We took it to one of Danny’s local mechanics to fix a few things and then we all to the small village of Tekom where the welder has his shop and home to leave the welder with him.

Jorge and Danny with generator

Mechanics working on generator

Okay, I think that is enough for my first day with Danny. Crashing late after final plans and calls ordering metal for the welders and getting ready for our trip to the big city of Merida in the morning.

Oct 8, 2011 – Getting ready to travel to the Yucatan

Arrived back in Santa Fe from our Apache Creek, New Mexico ranch. Si Thacker is our webmaster/creator and designed this website in the last week down at the ranch. I turned on the internet and we were able to balance all the computer work with hikes over the mesa and enjoying the beauty and quiet of the land.

Looking up at our mesa from the house

Top of mesa looking North

We had lots of rain this summer making up for the recent severe drought. Many trees are still stressed but could feel myself relaxing as the rains came back near the end of our stay.

Lots of rain this summer

Sad to leave. More stories to follow about our dreams for the ranch to be a retreat center, giving up on those dreams, selling parts of the ranch, ranch still for sale, and now maybe, just maybe, when we sell more we may be able  to keep the mesa to recreate some of those dreams.

Okay, back in Santa Fe learning how to use this blog, carrying on the business of Movement Educators with our Feldenkrais trainings and workshops and starting to pack for the Yucatan.

Here again I will eventually get back to Santa Fe stories about creating our compound, massive remodeling projects and how we have created a home to cherish and enjoy. One project was to dig out next to the house and creat a basement patio with a partial glass roof and fireplace with curved flagstone steps leading into our basement home.

Basement Patio

I don’t know where you are this morning but here in Santa Fe a cold rain fell all night and this morning we woke up to our first frost of the fall. Our backyard is showing the Fall season.

Save the tomatoes and bring in the pots

Time to get warm by our kiva fireplaces. Each year I haul up cords of juniper and other woods from our ranch to keep our kiva fireplaces roaring in the winter.

Time for our Kiva Fireplace

Okay, back to preparing for the Yucatan. I am going down for 2 weeks and Diana will follow for 8 days. Our main focus will be assess the state of the sheep herd and make decisions first and foremost about whether we can handle having and growing a sheep herd and being in the sheep business. We have a new vet and with his skills in managing a 1300 sheep herd in the same Valladolid area, we think it is very possible. But we have been learning how many things can go wrong and how much work and money it is taking to set up the sheep business. Even I, at times, wonder what I have gotten myself into and whether I am too crazy even for myself. Danny has tremendous energy and skills but sheep herding was not one of his acquired skills and I had none. Funny that Danny’s heritage comes from Spanish Basque people and Diana comes from, in part, French Basque. My heritage is wrapped in mystery somewhere to the north and east of the Caucasus Mountains in the republic of Georgia where my mother was born in Tiflis…..

So part of the benefit of our sheep herd is to roast a lamb and make a party. We had our first lamb roast in June where we invited all our mayan workers and their families and our friends and partners to celebrate our working together. First one of our shepherds got the town butcher to come out to Susula, the home of the agave and sheep, and prepare the animal for roasting. Okay, it really wasn’t a lamb but an old ewe that was not fertile.  A good friend of Danny’s, Armando, came and was the master chef. With a ewe we were dealing with mutton and having Armando to help was essential to producing something that could be eaten and enjoyed. Danny picked up Armando from the bus station in the evening and we started the preparations at 10 pm with injecting the ewe with a wine mix so it could marinate overnight. Then Armando prepared 3 sauces to go with the meat. I can’t really remember all the names and ingredients but that will come later with the next party. There were peanuts and chilis roasting, vegetables and herbs being chopped and other things that were all new to me. Okay, I forget, but we finished at 3 am and it is all a past blurr.

Armando in full cooking mode

Meanwhile, over the past days, Danny and I went to the welders and designed and had them build a sheep roasting rack. The sheep would be spread on the rack and could be lowered and raised and also turned over as it roasted on the fire.

Mutton roasting on rack over coals

I found a beautiful spot near the palapa and sheep corral to clear and develop an outdoor cooking and eating area. It has a group of large trees that give us shade.We had our mayan crew not only clear but try to level the area to be ready for the party. This land is composed of limestone, very rough, with rocks everywhere. They made a rock fire pit and brought over logs to burn from our clearing of a new field. We brought the marinated ewe and the just finished lamb roasting rack and stand.

New picnic area being developed

I also put out rocks for the stone masons to build a low wall around the trees for seating at future parties. The Mayans brought their families, Pedro, our sheep manager, brought his family and Danny’s daughter Fernanda joined us. It was a good party but let’s face it, the mutton was okay but far from tender lamb. It was our first approximation but enjoyed by all.

On this trip we are planning our second party, and with a lamb this time, a fat one I hope, after eating all the vegetation from the summer rains. Armando has agreed to help us again with the cooking. With Diana joining us, another master chef, this 2nd approximation is something I am really looking forward to. We are going to build up a pit above ground with rocks, as there is so little dirt to dig down, cut up the lamb into quarters and roast it overnight in a bed of coals. All the details will be related in blogs before and after the party, which is scheduled for Saturday, October 22nd.

Okay, back to packing and finishing up our work on our Feldenkrais Trainings. Do go to our website www.movement-educators.com to see what is happening in that arena.

Don O so ready for the lamb roast

From the Yukon to the Yucatan – Let the Blogging Begin

In this blog I want to share my experiences as a nomad over the last 40+ years. This journey is far from over but started at the age of 17 hitchhiking across the United States in the summer of 1962. My travels have not been worldwide but stretch from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to the Yucatan in Mexico and also many years in Western Europe.

I have mostly followed my nose and with a strong impulse disorder have leaped into many untenable situations. I am proud of having lived through all the thousands of mistakes I have amassed, as I believe we learn the most through fucking up, and that I surely did many times!

I am going to start at the end, that is now, as this website is about my adventures in the Yucatan and that is what I will be relating as it happens. But as the inspiration grabs me or as someone asks questions, I will delve back into past adventures. Like the time we ate wolf-regurgitated caribou meat that we found on the ice, under the snow, on the Yukon River. Or like the time my partner breastfed our newborn puppies, along with our daughter. Okay, you get the picture, all nonfiction and definitely on the strange side of life. But it has been my life and I want to share it at last through this medium in conjunction with working on writing some books that have been long overdue.

Don Oso