Monday, May 4, 2009

March and April on the farm

The month of March on the farm is primarily inundated with marañon. The season for marañon is February through April but the majority of the harvest is ripe in March. Most of the fruit is juiced for wine, vinegar, jelly, and syrup. Some of the fruit is dehydrated and used with the cashew nut for a snack bar. To juice the marañon the seed is removed and the fruit is torn apart and pressed by hand. I am sorry I did not have my camera on the days we were juicing the marañon. The process is as homemade as you can get and very colorful. My hands smelled of marañon for days after.

In addition to the marañon, in late February the indigo nurseries are planted. The beds are made by piling up the earth into 3 feet by 15 feet dimensions. In total we planted 18 beds of the two varieties of indigo. Once the plants reach 20 centimeters, they will be ready to be transplanted to different sections of the farm. The indigo plant is replanted every three years.

In March we also planted pepilan- which is a squash-like vegetable similar to zucchini. Since this vegetable is susceptible to pests, we made an organic pesticide made from Nim. Nim is a tree and the leaves and seeds are crushed to make a pesticide. After the leaves are picked they are passed through a mill. The pulp is then submersed in water. After three days the mixture is strained to a concentrate. One liter of the concentrate is mixed with five liters of water and is sprayed on the plants. A hand full of pepilans were ready to harvest late April.
I included a picture of my favorite dog on the farm. Most of the workers bring their dogs to work or at leat the dogs follow them to work. This particular dog has to swim across a river to get to work. Her name is Sweety and she is expecting puppies this month- her first litter.

Semana Santa

Although Catholicism is not the reigning religion in El Salvador, Holy Week continues to be celebrated with very old traditions. In Suchitoto the processions begin after Ash Wednesday and continue through Easter Sunday. “Rugs” are made in the street with colored saw dust with pictures of scenes from the bible. Most people have vacation Thursday through Sunday. And many take advantage of the days off to go to the beach. I felt as if I should not go against tradition. June and I were invited to El Flor, a beach in the western part of El Salvador. I have noticed that each beach in El Salvador is unique. We joined a group of June’s friends for the weekend and did little more than relax. Many of the houses on this beach have been owned by the same families for years. Over the years they have formed their own traditions for Holy Week. One tradition is a sand sculpture contest. I am not sure how I was drafted for this event but I gave my best to create a shark out of sand. As you can see from the picture- it is probably not biologically correct but at least people knew it was a shark. Just to let you know we were basing our shark off of a pair of a kid’s swim trunks that had pictures of sharks.

I also included a picture of the moon during holy week. It was full the Thursday of Holy Week and rose a bright orange color every evening.

Ruta de Las Flores

Part II

The hostel where we stayed had great artwork in each room. Several pieces were from an artist in Apaneca. The owners said he is always open to visitors, so on our way back to Suchitoto we stopped in to see his studio. Gustavo, the artist, works primarily with recycled material, especially wood that he collects all over the country. His work is incredible and I am still trying to figure out how to actually transport a piece back home. After visiting his workshop, he invited us to some land that he had recently purchased where he plans to build several cabanas. The view looks out over the mountains surrounding La Ruta de Las Flores. He is building the cabanas in his artistic style with recycled doors, wood planks and shudders. Our conversation turned to food and our mutual love of cheese. He told us about a French man in Ataco who makes goat cheese. We joined up with some friends of Gustavo and had a late lunch in Ataco of quiche, crepes and goat cheese. The variety of cheese offered in El Salvador is limited so I was more than excited. It was a great end to an amazing weekend.

La Ruta de Las Flores

Part I

The Ruta de Las Flores was originally named for the flowers that flank the 36 kilometer long road through coffee country, small charming towns and natural beauty. There are three towns the make up the majority of the tourist route through the area: Juayua, Apeneca and Ataco. We stayed in Juayua in a great hostel owned by a Danish woman and El Salvadorian man. Murals are a common site all over the town. But the true beauty of this area is primarily based in the dramatic landscape and nature. We took a great hike to the seven waterfalls surrounding Juayua. The hike consisted of four hours of steep up hills, slippery down hills and a bit of repelling but each waterfall was spectacular in its own way and worth the sore legs the next day. The most popular waterfall is used as a swimming destination for many tourists. Our guide took us through tunnels carved out in the cliffs surrounding the waterfalls where the current of the water just pushes you through.