This post was originally written as an email on May 7, 2012.
It has been over two weeks since I last wrote about my experience with Ecuadorian pesticides and the subsequent emergency medical situation. (see post entitled, “Close Call and Friends!”) That was all brought on by a desire to grow a garden (jardin pronounced Har-deen) in our little corner of paradise. Well many of you have asked about that garden, so I will try to bring you up to date on our garden.
We feel very blessed to have found a perfect place to live in a back corner unit of some condominium/apartments known as Macedonia. We have our own pool in a quiet safe little corner of San Clemente. We also have a good sized patio area which had some plants and some bare ground area on the west and north.
The east side of our home has a concrete retaining wall, a small stretch of dirt and a rough parking area where there were some small palm trees, weeds and some material left over from the construction crews.
When I first moved down here I was working on a writing assignment for Pearson Publishing and much of my spare time was taken up with that project and the business of getting settled in a new home. But, that project is now completed and Mary and I decided to spend more of our time working on our little yard area.
Before we could plant anything we had to work on preparing the area. There were two old tree stumps on the north side lot that had been hacked down to ground level, but still put forth sprouts and had a subterranean root ball that would not die. There was also a water pipe system that routed water from the main city line tank to the pool area and a drip irrigation system used in the lower yard area near the ramada and hammocks that came up out of the ground and then came down through the proposed garden area. And, there was no hose hook-up in our yard area.
So – the preparation phase took much more work and time than one might think. The first order of business was to dig up those roots and cut them to the point where they would not grow back here in the fertile Ecuadorian soil that sprouts trees out of fence posts! I dug out two massive root-balls that would have to be split into fourths to fit into a normal sized fireplace and re-acquainted myself with hard work and blisters! We got the parts and put in a hose connection.
The plastic pipes in the garden area presented a challenge. Our friends, Wayne and Jan had some left over bricks from a project in their yard which they said we could use, so I got a wheel barrow and loaded up (too many at first) loads of bricks to wheel up to our house from Wayne’s. I used these bricks to line along the exposed plastic pipes and to bury them out of sight.
Then I got the idea of making stepping stones and that led to making other borders and raised areas in and around the garden. (You know how these things go!)
I used all of Wayne’s bricks and scores more from our landlord who allowed me to take as many as I needed from the construction site area down by the road. I think I probably used enough bricks to qualify for membership in the mason union! But, I think I am done with that phase.
We had a LOT of grubs and beetles in the area and before I knew what was happening our young achocha plants, which had been doing so well, and some pepper plants were consumed by hungry beetle larvae. (Refer to my last letter for how not to combat grubs!) We also had some other setback with attempted transplants that did not take, etc., but all in all – the garden is looking great!
Our friends, Lou and Mary were pouring concrete at their home and allowed me to remove some oleander, hibiscus, wandering ground cover plants, and other plants from the construction areas. Most of these have taken to the move very well.
We also have purchased a number of roses and other flowering plants and the seeds that our friends, Bob and Glenda, brought from the States have germinated and are growing. Neighbors (and even Roberth our helpful taxi driver who pulled over and stopped by the side of the road to clip a limb from a plant on the roadway back from Portoviejo)
have offered clippings from numerous plants (mostly bougainvillea family plants) to use in our garden. Mary even has an area designated as her herb garden area which she has planted with plants and seedlings. She used some rosemary from the garden in a dish this last weekend.
*One quick side note on our roses. We were in Charapoto for the Sunday market one morning about a month ago when we saw a vendor who had full-sized roses and tea-rose plants for sale. The tea-roses were two dollars each and the roses were two fifty each! We wanted to buy some, but we came by bus and it would have been impossible to carry the plants home with the other vegetables. The vendor told us that he and his wife (named, “Rosa!”) come to San Clemente to bring vegetables to Meier’s restaurant every Tuesday and that they would bring the roses on Tuesday morning. I agreed to meet them on the roadway to get my roses. We picked out five tea roses at first (Rosa threw in another for the ten dollars!) and I paid the money and left. We had no receipt and no work order detailing delivery dates and times, but sure enough the next Tuesday morning Rosa showed up riding in the back of their little truck and had our six tea roses and some more bare-root flowers that look like impatiens.
The next week we did not go to Charapoto market (because I was in the hospital), but the following Tuesday morning a little voice came from the other side of our wall and Rosa had made her way up our street to find us to see if we wanted some full-sized roses. We bought five and she threw in an extra. All of these rose bushes are flourishing in our garden and are a living testament to the honest hardworking people we love here in Ecuador!
Now that the initial area is filling up, we are moving on to planters and baskets and we keep tackling more and more of the rough area up by the parking lot in our efforts to, “go forth and tend the garden that God has given us.” Probably the best idea that Mary had was for me to make a bird bath. I used bricks (go figure!) to cordon off a place in the lot where the lawn will eventually go and planted some ground cover. I used some bamboo poles to hold up a bird bath area and filled it with water.
For the first day or two we saw no birds use our bird bath, but we believed that, “if we built it, they would come.” And come they have! We have seen numerous species of birds in our little bird bath either bathing or drinking, but the cutest to date are the yellow saffron finches that come by alone or in pairs throughout the day. They have become so used to our area that the birds come freely while we are sitting on the patio within five to ten feet from them. Today, when I went out to get some pictures to supplement this letter, as if on cue, a single saffron finch swept in and posed for a picture on the side of the bird bath.
We still have to level out the lawn area and get some more grass seed planted, but hopefully the pictures will show you how our little Garden of Eden is coming along. Come on down and enjoy paradise with us anytime!
All of the above pictures were taken on or before May 7th. Just for fun, I will attach a few quick pictures taken from similar angles that I took this morning (Sep. 29th). I told you things grow well here in Ecuador!
Life is good in Ecuador!