Here are some more quick, personal updates from our patio garden and mini-zoo.

We harvested the head of little bananas (bananito rosa) that was growing over the roof; I was worried it was leaning on the roofing and going to cook in the heat where it touched, and the bananas looked fat and plump.  I think we could have left it a tad longer, but we also wanted to eat them while Nick’s parents were here.  We’ve been waiting for two and a half years for that banana plant to give us a head!!  The plantain trees the project I worked with nearby sprouted a head every eight months, so now I understand one reason why these little bananitos are more expensive in the markets.  What our plant lost in speed it made up for in quantity – there were over 125 bananitos on the head!

(Bananas and plantains have heads, hands, and fingers: the whole stalk of fruit is the head, each double row of bananas is a hand, and each individual fruit is refered to as a finger).

It’s best to harvest a head right before it starts to ripen, because otherwise birds and hungry pests attach feverishly.  So we hung the head up in our patio to ripen.  Every morning we examined the top fruit looking for yellow blush.  When the first turned yellow, we picked them too soon but grudgingly swallowed the starchy not-very sweet bites because they were just so valuable.  When after a week the head ripened – like a living firework, spreading downward – it caught us off guard.  Within two days the entire head ripened to soft super sweet bananas and then blackened and they began falling off by themselves.  Begin: banana eating marathon.  Bananas on cereal in the morning, bananas for dessert after lunch, banano con leche in the afternoon, banana cake after dinner, bananas for all the neighbors!  Everyone enjoyed the banana binge, and hopefully we won’t have to wait two and half years for the next of the six teenage plants we have to sprout a head.

Katharine, Nick’s mother, did some beautiful paintings during their month-long visit, inspired by our patio container garden and the bright red cock’s comb that are blooming now.  Most of our plants began as cuttings urped from someone elses garden or seeds I picked up someone on my adventures.  The cock’s comb were taken as seeds from some flowers I bought on the day of the dead (November 2).  It’s a flower that is used traditionally to decorate gravestones.

The flower grows like a giant tumor, starting small and then growing riplier and curlier, and the seeds actually mature at the base of the flower and begin to fall out while it is still blooming, so they are very easy to collect.  These are the second generation I’ve planted here.

At the end of her visit, Katharine decided to give one of her paintings of Arsen (el gato) and our plants to Maria Jose, a good friend who helps us around the house and is the life of the party at all of our gatherings, for her birthday.

Have you ever known a monogamous cat?  Arsen has now had two sets of kittens with the same tortoise-shell gata from next door, and is so affectionate!  He calls her over when we put food out, and they lie around together on the cool patio in the evening.  She was initially very shy with us but is getting bolder, and now comes over and now asks for food directly!  We don’t feed her unless Arsen is asking too.  We just found out that he also hangs out over at the neighbors.  He has never brought any other cats in to our house, only her!  They always greet each other with nose bumps and tail sniffing.  This morning I caught them smooching on the wall behind the bananas.  

We have one broody hen right now who is sitting on eight green eggs, due to hatch three days before Easter.  The most common green-egg breeds in the states are Aracauna and Americauna, but I think probably all of what we have would be called “Easter Eggers”, or mixed breed unknown heritage chickens that lay beautiful eggs.  One little girl who lays green eggs laid an enormous double yolker.  Smallest chicken we have, biggest egg I’ve ever seen!  I’ll never get bored of all the colored eggs we get, and have ridiculous numbers of pictures of them.

We had a chicken health adventure this past weekend.  One blond lady was down in the soil panting, sitting in her own poo, and wouldn’t get up or even move.  She’s done this before – one time I was there and hand fed her some water, carried her over to the water feeder, and she perked up.  Another time Melania was house sitting and said she gave it a baby amoxicillin in water and said it got better.  This time she looked pretty bad, and to make matters worse had a wound on her back from the rooster trying to mount her while she was down, so I decided to do some research.  After consulting the omniscient internet, I did the following:

– isolated her from the rest of the flock in our patio, in a makeshift cage made of chairs on their sides.

– narrowed the symptoms down to two probable causes: egg bind (stuck egg) or blocked crop (food stuck in her digestive system).  I felt around her chest and abdomen for signs of either, and decided it was blocked crop.  She had a large lump in her chest about the size of a small peach that was hard and lumpy (like pebbles packed together with clay).

– with the help of Nick, we gave her a 1/4 teaspoon of virgin sesame oil with a tiny bit of powder from an amoxicillin capsule every six hours to lubricate her system.  I kept feeding her lots of water, and giving her crop a little massage every twenty minutes to help move things along.

– overnight, some major sticky dry poos and now she’s standing up for the first time!  Seems to have worked.  Some hydrogen peroxide on the wounds on her back, and I think after another day of cooked rice she might be ready to go back to the flock.  success (we hope!)