Tuesday, 3 December 2013


I've been enjoying honey these days. Didn't used to like it, found the smell cloying and too heavy, reminiscent of fields of rape and mustard seed around childhood homes. But I like bees and have always fancied keeping a hive or three. And I love the scent of beeswax. We can't have honeybees on the farm, as the farmer is allergic and there are too many Africanized bee incidents to make it work. But  I'm hoping that soon, very soon, I'll be able to take a workshop on melipona bees. These are the small stingless bees native to the tropics. There are many varieties none of which produce honey in the same quantities as the honeybee, but their honey is medicinal, rich and delicious.

Meanwhile we've been buying honey from a local beekeeper. We've made vanilla infused honey for a few years, but I've started infusing other herbs. I'm working with 4 different blended infusions right now. The honey is a perfect base for these medicinal blends, not only sweetening the medicine, but bringing another layer of anti-bacterial and anti-viral  properties. My favourite is 'Lovin' Spoonful' with cuculmeca, cacao, vanilla and ginger. It is dark and thick and has a great smack of energy which it delivers about 3 seconds after it enters your mouth. These are potent remedies and not be be eaten by the spoonful!!

I'm also putting honey in lip balms, soaps and lip scrubs, mostly for the humectant and soothing properties, but also for the golden colour and richness it gives. The lip scrub and balm already have beeswax so the honey brings a little more depth to the honey / beeswax scent.

I've also just been spreading it on bread.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

There's something both liberating and limiting about being a purist. Maybe the liberation comes with the limitation. When one knows and understands one's boundaries, it becomes freeing. Perhaps just knows - understanding is much more work. It's not that I'm a purist in everything, just in some ways. The drive to do things myself, my way - which almost always is the old way. The 'getting back to the land' dream. Simplifying is part of it. But the simplification isn't really the end goal, it's something to be done on the way. This internal, ongoing dialogue about doing away with things, processes, people even. It's almost competitive.

I haven't had anything to say for a long time. I've been caught up, entrenched, drowning in other things. Things outside and beyond myself. Drama. Life. But now I'm in retreat, hiding away on the farm, staying low, keeping quiet. I still don't feel like I've anything to say. I'm a bit lost.

 But what I am beginning to remember is the importance of purity.

Not in some huge, overarching significant way, but in the small things. Eating a breakfast of jam and toast. Jam and bread that I've made myself. Using a spoon I've carved to dollop the jam. Fruit I've had a hand in growing, certainly in harvesting. Flour I've dried and ground myself. Sourdough that's appeared here, out of the air. Purist. It's something real, tangible, I can touch. Grounding. Helpful.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

sunday morning rain brings delicacy

These appeared at the foot of our stairs this afternoon. A delicacy when still contained in their egg  shaped casing, they don't seem so appetising at this stage. Not a great smell. But amazing to look at.

Saturday, 9 November 2013


A man died at the farmers' market this morning. We were just arriving, just before 7 and a group of men were standing to one side, some kneeling, some crowding and one doing CPR. They were taking it in turns, but one could tell by their faces and by their constant motion that it was not working. Across the way a group of people were looking, hands to their mouths. I knew the men who were there, and then someone came running across and said it was Frederick. Frederick was a regular at the market, always there early, always smiling, as strong as a bull. Tall, lean, in his late 60s I think. He'd built bicycles in India and for the Contras in Nicaragua, he was a poet and a wordsmith, and he was incredibly strong. He'd built his house way back in the jungle, off grid, a huge wooden structure tall with a complicated roof and no walls. We had been neighbours for a year. His heart just stopped and he was already dead by the time he hit the ground. They loaded him onto the back of a pick up and took him to the clinic. Someone went to fetch his wife. The market was subdued, quiet. The mothers took their children away quickly after buying their groceries. It was strange and awful to see them load him into the pick up. He was wearing the clothes he always wore, but already he had lost all his colour. His groceries lay where he'd been repacking them. After 20 minutes the market got very lively, a lot of people laughing like a wave of positive energy came through. I don't know if it was relief, or people were recovering from the shock, or if it was the energy of Frederick himself, but the market was buzzing. Gradually it faded and the normal hubbub took over, people coming and going, oblivious to what had happened. Someone set up with a box of puppies for adoption in the same place Frederick had fallen. And so life continues, for us, today.

After the market I worked on a new vegetable garden we're starting. Laying out contour lines, planting madera negra sticks and vetiver to keep the slope steady, heaping up mulch and hauling rotten tree branches and small trunks. Frederick was in my mind almost constantly. Just smiling and nodding. It's not that we were close at all, it's more that this man who was so energetic was gone, but his energy was there, palpable.

As we were leaving the market I saw the wife of another neighbour  who had taken his life in September. We were away and had missed the wake and the funeral. It was the first time I'd seen her since his death. She had been talking to one of the market vendors and she was crying. We hugged, she looked lost and very far away. The image of her face came to me while I was working in the garden too: the ones who leave and the ones who remain, vastly different experiences of the same phenomena.

God Bless you Frederick and Juni, and warmth and love to you Eva and Beate . . .

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Sacha Inchi Seeds

 Sacha Inchi is one of those magical plants straight out of a fairy tale. A briarless briar that will up and over everything in a matter of months, burying shrubs, trees, castles beneath its vibrant green flow of leaves and vines. The flowers are like little lances, tiny white yellow balls on a small sturdy stalk - you can see the remnants in the first photo. One would never think that a little slender stick would become such a Cinderella's carriage of a fruit. The fruit is star shaped and can have between 4 and 7 points (though I'm sure there are 3 pointers and 8 pointers out there), though we see mostly 5 and 6 pointed fruits. Star shaped fruits are always magical in their symmetry and simplicity, and the sacha inch has to be one of the most beautiful.
The green fruit
 Gradually the green fruit begins to ripen and turn brown, losing its swollen firmness and taking on a more streamlined and floral aspect. The outer layer splits underneath to reveal the first of 2 seed casings. We wait until the outermost layer has almost rotted away, or dried up into a downy fluff. Termites really like this material and are quite good at cleaning the seeds. The seeds can then fall or can be hand picked. And its then that the real work begins.
The mature seed pod
We sun dry the fruits until the outer husk can be almost brushed off and then - with a lot of patience, and ideally some good conversation or music - we begin shelling. There are two shells, an outer more woody pale shell covering a thinner and darker inner shell. Sometimes we are able to remove both shells together, but mostly not. We store the seeds with their inner shell, removing it when we want to roast the seeds. They are very pretty, about the size of nickels, smooth and cool to the touch.
Almost shelled sacha inchi seeds
We're experimenting with a slow low roast in the dehydrator to preserve the full Omega 3, but the seeds are also delicious roasted with a little garlic and salt in a heavy bottomed pan. The reason why we go to all this trouble is the incredible nutritional value of sacha inchi. 

With the highest known percentage of Omega 3, about 50%, and a great balance of Omega 6 and 9, sacha inchi or Nut Vine, Inca Peanut, Peru Nut as they're also known, is a wonderful addition to our diet. They are rich in protein - about 33%, a complete protein source including all the amino acids; high in vitamins A and E; and a good source of minerals including calcium and iron. Very highly digestible and rich in fibre. They are also really tasty. We eat them as a snack with ground kefir lime leaves, garlic and salt, or add them to salads. They are also a great addition to a trail mix. 
 Fully shelled seeds

We've just planted out a new trellis, and we should be starting harvest on the new plants in about 6 months. Meanwhile we just finished a major harvest and are currently working on drying and shelling the seeds. We have some in our Etsy store.

Saturday, 2 November 2013


We've been making chocolate for almost 2 years now. Hard to imagine but true. It's a lot of work to take the fruit from our old heirloom cacao trees and transform it into the bars you see above, but it's good work. Four years ago today I wrote a post about harvesting our cacao:


so I won't retell that story :) But after it's harvested, fermented and sun dried, roasted, milled and winnowed we turn it into bars. I'll save the explanation of that magical process for another post. Just to say it takes 3 days to go from bean to bar. We do the entire process ourselves, from harvest to selling the bars at the farmers' market. In all that time there are no more than 4 people who handle the chocolate, and it travels no more than 1 mile from tree to market stall. It's quite wonderful really, the process. And the bars? They're very good, rich, dark, fudge-like texture and rewarding.

We want to stay as true to the roots of chocolate as we can. We have three flavors: vanilla, rosita de cacao and allspice: all 3 are traditional indigenous additions to cacao: meaning they were added to cacao drinks before the Europeans appeared.  Vanilla comes from the Veracruz area of Mexico - it's native to much of Central America, but it was the Totonac Indians who first cultivated it. Our vanilla bars are 1%  organic vanilla (we grow organic vanilla), we call them Totonac Bars. Rosita de Cacao needs its own post. We love it, it's a pretty little white flower and comes from the Oaxaca area of Mexico, we call our Rosita bars Olmec after the Olmec Indians, and the Allspice bars are named K'An which is the Mayan glyph for Allspice. The Mayans used Allspice for cacao, as a medicinal and as a ritual plant.

As a special request we also make a really delicious milk chocolate. Shh . . .