Well hello everyone! It's been a little bit so here's what I've been up to:
Last weekend was a blast, starting out on Friday by going to Sunset Jazz which is on the 3rd Friday of the month down in F-sted on the boardwalk. It was fun mingling with the locals and meeting new people, and having a beer while watching the sunset and listening to some local jazz players. And on Saturday I was helping to put on one of the slow down dinners we host here on the farm. It was my first experience waitressing (but it wasn't a real waitressing experience because everyone is so nice on island). And the food was amazing! Keith the cook made a 6 course meal with our farm vegetables, the wild pigs we killed here, and he made a carambola (starfruit) upside down cake, mmmm.... When we host these dinners they're usually every 2 weeks, for 2 days of the weekend (Fri/Sat or Sat/Sun), but it started pouring on Sunday so we had to cancel, because the roads are dangerous to drive on in really wet conditions. It turned out we were on the edge of a tropical storm (which isn't
that uncommon this time of year because it's rainy season, and sometimes they turn into the hurricanes we've been reading all about). This one didn't, but it rained for 2 days straight with no break, the longest rain that I've been in.
During that time I developed this intense rash up and down my legs, my lower back, and a little on my face. It was red, splotchy, bumpy, and itched. I think it was mango rash, which some people are more allergic to than others (uhh me) and especially because I've been the one harvesting a lot of the mangos and eating a ton of mango. Well, I started wearing long pants (a drag in the humidity), and it's pretty much gone away.
As for the ants, apparantely a grad student recently did his PhD about Caribbean Crazy Ants (they only just started to be here in the last few years), and he concluded that there is NOTHING organic you can do to get rid of them because they're some sort of hybrid ant and there are billions of them here. We believe him because we've tried EVERYTHING, tons of combinations of peppers, garlic, boric acid (which you can use on organic farms), diatomacious earth, etc. Cinnamon works well to keep them away from things, but doesn't make them go away. SOooo we got approval from the Organic Certification People to have a pesticide guy come in and spray, as long as the spray was away from the crops. It wasn't our first choice (who likes pesticides?) but everyone here was at their wits end about the ants. I mean, it's not cool to have ants crawling in your bed when you're sleeping. Anyways, they're still here, but dying off a little - a way more manageable situation.
The last week was good, full of some good labor. We're getting this area planted and cover cropped. I also went to a few meetings that Nate here at the farm is helping to put on to get St. Croix to be a National Heritage Area Site through the National Parks Service. The meetings were to get local input, and it was interesting to hear the history of the island through people and to hear some of their stories.
This weekend was incredible. Friday started out by hosting a lunch for 50 people, so I helped Dan who was cooking, made sure that everyone was fed, and then I got to eat leftovers! Jen made this mango cobbler that was almost as good as my mom's cobbler...mmm...cobbler. And then Saturday a bunch of us went to the beach and stayed the night in C-sted at Ben's parent's house watching football and hanging out. And then on Sunday we went on a boat of this guy who Manda met at a bar (you can just do that here, meet people at bars and go on their boat...it turned out that some older farm folks knew him too, everyone knows each other) and we sailed to Buck Island, a couple miles from shore. It was AMAZING! I had never really been sailing before, and put that together with wonderful caribbean weather and blue water, I felt like I was truly in paradise! When we got to the island whole everyone was partying I went on a long hike to the top and the other side, and snorkeled a bit on the way back. There aren't as many fish as I saw in Mexico, but they're there and some of the coral formations were pretty cool. Then after we sailed back, we went to see Kurt play at the local bar by the farm in the forest, and he is GREAT! He plays feel-good rhythym dance music with his guitar and some drums. And I tried the special drink there called a Mambowana, and who knows what's in there! It's a shot of local herbs, some kind of crucian alcohol, and one will definitely get you in another space. I was good with one, and then I danced!
Anyways, life here on island has been great. I'm enjoying NOT being in school. I feel like there's more me space, even when I'm working because farm work is pretty meditative. I get up at about 6:30am to start feeding the animals and helping out with other work, we take turns cooking lunch, work in the afternoon, sometimes go to the beach after that or I usually take a shower and COOK. Evening times are hard for me to be on the computer because that's when the mosquitos come out in full force when the sun sets (so it's hard to sit still and let them eat you), so I've been cooking almost everyday here, and it's GREAT! I've been making yeasted bread from scratch (putting bananas, nuts, carambolas etc. inside), mango chutney, mango jam, coconut black beans (with mango haha). Lots of mango cooking here because there's so much, we even substitute mangos for tomatoes (tomatoes aren't in season yet) in our guacamole, and it is sooooooo good. My next big adventure is to cook ackee (local tree nut I think), which is really poisonous if harvested at the wrong time. But I think I harvested at the right time yesterday and now I think I'll incorporate them into my lunch today when I cook. I've been learning to cook with other local plants on the farm too like chaya, culantro (like cilantro), katuk, ricao, cranberry hibiscus, etc. More news and notes
-I've got a bedmate now (not that kind of bedmate, silly...). Tekka the cat who was occupying Keith's cabana is now staying with me because Keith's gone for 2 months. Tekka's this huge cat and he acts like a baby, but a wonderful cat.
-I brought my cletes to play soccer but it looks like I'll be using them for ultimate on Mondays and Thursdays
-I mentioned the partying culture before, but seriously, everyone loves to drink and smoke herb, I haven't met anyone who doesn't. But it's a different vibe than stateside for sure, there's no way to really describe it. It's part of the culture here.
-The greatest thing ever: riding in the back of the truck on the mattress. I'm working on getting myself on the insurance so I can drive, but I'm not working too hard, because I LOVE riding in the back of the truck, with the breeze, and the stars (if driving at night). As a former apprentice put it: "I've always wanted a magic carpet....this is just as good."
Well y'all I think that's all I can write right now because I've got to get some work done! Love you all, and stay tuned!
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