Little things

Posted on

A bird in our backyard pine tree, which is not particularly attractive but, as Syd told us long ago: “In Uruguay in summer, shade is good.”


Volunteer squash plants from the mound of dumped non-composted compost, taking over the side passageway of our house, fortunately not otherwise needed. Slightly wilted in the midday sun.

volunteer squash plants

The usual garden story

Posted on

A few days ago, I transplanted three squash seedlings. They’re doing fine, but …

Volunteer squash

… I now see six. Hmmm. And when I check on the first of the tomatoes I transplanted,

Volunteer squash

I see six more. On the second transplanted tomato,

Volunteer squash

SEVEN squash plants! I had given each transplant a healthy amount of the compost I had taken out of our bin just prior, which a few days later

Volunteer squash

looks like this. Maybe I can get some of these starts to grow at our chacra, where we have plenty of room for sprawling squash vines.

So this is how my garden grows!

Volunteer cilantro

The tomato seedlings are in a bed with a fair amount of cilantro, which I also didn’t plant this year.

And yes, I do need to do some weeding.

Dog-proofing the garden area

Posted on

I’ve put this off far too long. With destructo-dog I absolutely have to have a fenced garden area. I’m not the most enthusiastic gardener, but I do have a bunch of seeds started, some of which (squash) will require substantial space.


Using what I had at the chacra, I cut posts to have 80 cm exposed. I had a roll of 120 cm fence wire already, so I figured I take off the top 40 cm and double it when I ran out of the roll.


It was pretty close — 2 meters shy! Had I not made a circular compost bin in the country earlier with the fencing, it would have worked out almost exactly right.

Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.

Benji, meanwhile, decided this was a nice place to hang out. No more. I trimmed the top 40 cm, leaving spikes, and built a gate. It’s not a pretty fence, and it’s not particularly well made, but it doesn’t have to be. It just has to keep out the dog and cat.

No excuse now.

Exciting new acquisition

Posted on
bucket of fish heads and guts
It’s a perspective thing — the bucket is over half full.

I haven’t determined exactly how I’m going to incorporate fish waste into my close-to-totally-disorganized garden, but it will have to be dog-digging-proof. I have decided to make a substantial fence. But deciding is short of doing, and we happen to have a puppy who likes to dig — and meanwhile no fence.

Beyond remembered tales of American Indians dumping a fish head or carcass below each corn plant, my fish-in-the-garden story is this: shortly after arriving in Mexico in 2007, I attended an organic gardening class by a massively overweight American woman who happened to be very good at growing things. Actually, exceptionally good. She was also an outstanding cook and baker, and, unh huh, liked to eat. She had a plastic-lined pit in which she made compost tea from fish, and shared her secret source. There was, she said, at the end of a short two-block street that ended at the railroad tracks in Pátzcuaro, a place where they processed fish from the lake. You had to knock on an unmarked door, have containers, explain your request, and then, Hod willing and goods delivered, back out the two blocks, because there was no way to turn your car around.

Sorry, that’s above my pay grade.

She also explained how they cultivated contacts in the daily mercado for composting. They had to they dress down, relate to the locals, develop trusted relationships in order to get the valued vegetable waste. Wow. Heavy social investment.

Reference: there is no way a home gardener can get enough compost from home vegetable waste. You need organic materials from somewhere else.

Anyway, visiting a project of ours on Calle Independencia near the cemetery in Pátzcuaro, I discovered something amazing: garbage trucks appear there every afternoon. Guys with hand trucks and 55-gallon barrels go into the market and bring out the waste. I showed up day after day, with a plastic tub like the one I bought here, and soon they wanted to know before they went into the market: was there was anything in particular I favored? Onion greens? Carrot tops? It was deliciously ironic.

But it got better.

One day, a little truck pulled up. Fish waste. From the fish place. You know, the one where you had do a little ritual of obscure door-knocking and reverse-driving. I said to the garbage kid (remember, I’m an old fart, so everyone is a kid), fish is OK in the garden, eh? and he enthusiastically agreed and personally took my plastic tub to the truck and proudly filled it with fish heads and bones and guts, and placed it in the back of my several-years-old Toyota 4Runner.

Fortunately, I had a plastic-rubber floor liner. Because, in his enthusiasm, the kid had maximally-filled my plastic tub. And despite my caution, over the first tope — speed bump — I heard the flop of a fish carcass. On the next another. No matter. I could always hose that stuff off.

The problem arose — as today — when I realized that I had arrived home shortly before dinner time and actually had to do something with this treasure. In Mexico, it involved feverishly turning over my extensive compost pile, inserting fish waste, re-covering and weighting down plastic sheeting so our animals couldn’t get into it. It worked. And apparently fertilized magnificently, but by then we were the hell out of Mexico. Another story that I probably won’t tell here.

Meanwhile, here, a couple concrete blocks over the bucket this evening. Tomorrow? Stay tuned 😉

Thanks for reading this. Gardening is weird at times, no?

Bok Choy

Posted on


This is what happens when you stick the bottom of a head of bok choy / pak choi in dirt and let it go. It didn’t make another head, but we did harvest quite a few leaves before it bolted. The bees love those flowers. Next: collect seeds ….

Those are heads of lettuce either side of it, from seedlings courtesy of our friends Don and Jan.




Maybe, finally, maybe … !

Posted on

My wife woke up this morning after a dream that one of our avocado trees was starting to produce! She walked outside and voila! Seems like we just checked the other day and saw nothing.

First buds on our 7-year-old avocado tree! Atlántida, Uruguay

I’m guessing these two trees are around seven years old.

Landmark day 😉





Posted on


Our two avocado trees are growing beautifully. Unfortunately, after six+ years they show no interest in producing fruit. A few months ago I chopped the tops off them to see if that would help.


Good news, though: we have generous friends 😉


Just the thing to accompany a Sunday omelet and homemade bread.



Busy day

Posted on
I moved the table saw outside to deal with ripping 330 cm (10.8′) boards

I was disappointed how long it was taking to make compost — basically, three buckets’ worth in five years. So I started reading about worm composting, found a design that looked good, figured I’d order some worms — without remembering something.

So I built a little worm farm.

Worm composter
Removable hinged lid keeps rain out
Worm composter
I transferred compost-in-progess from the barrel we’ve been using to the bottom bin. We’ll put fresh worm food in the upper tray until it’s full, then add the next. When the worms run out of food below, they’ll migrate upward, leaving the bottom bin empty of worms and full of wonderful worm castings!


I also built my first hydroponic unit.

Hydroponic grower, Uruguay
The raised portion *should* allow enough room for the plants’ air roots, meaning I don’t need to oxygenate the water. We will see! Needs a plastic lining.

I started making compost tea.


And I discovered that my first attempt to sprout sunflower seeds wasn’t unsuccessful after all. They loved the non-composting compost barrel!




Bags of shit

Posted on


Sheep manure, to be precise: the latest cargo of the pobre Meriva. It’s been very dry — too dry — for a while, so the abono is light and not smelly. I expected to do all the work, but the lovely Uruguayan couple insisted on helping. They have 120 animals. No shortage of shit 😉

My neighbor has offered to turn over the soil for a garden spot with his tractor. I may have a real garden this year, for the first time since the early 1990s.

Before internet. There’s a connection.