Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hanging baskets Dominican style

One of the things I loved most about England in the summer time were the hanging baskets.

I used to have them at the front and back of the house, and if you went to a country pub you were always guaranteed to see them hanging in a row all along the outside.

I mentioned to husband it would be nice to have some here and I explained exactly what they were. Always keen to please he sorted them out whilst I was cooking lunch, and proudly yelled at me to go and see them in the garden.

Not exactly what I was thinking of. The garden is now littered with halves of plastic Gatorade and Coca Cola bottles nailed into every available tree. Instead of overflowing with bizzy lizzy, pansies and fuschia, each one has a tomato plant in it. The other tomatoes are growing like topsy and we are currently picking a few pounds each day. No idea what I will do with them all and now I am going to have even more. I have handed them out to all of the neighbours, although one lady came around a couple of days ago and I told her to go and help herself. She advised me she couldn't as she was menstruating. I was most confused and asked if that made her allergic to tomatoes maybe? She replied that not at all but if she touched the tomato plant whilst in her current condition it would wither and die. She was surprised I did not know that.

Unfortunately for me, the Dominicans seem to be winning the garden wars, and Hector’s corn is double the height of mine. I also have a sneaking suspicion that there is sabotage going on. Just look at the Dominican pumpkin here.

And remember my lovely American butternut squash.

Now look at it.

From big and healthy with loads of flowers, to a heap of shriveled stalks .I have no idea what happened, or why, so I have planted some more which I will guard day and night. Maybe the neighbour who wouldn't pick the tomatoes touched it by accident?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Campo life and technical hitches

Busy week in the mountains, what with work, gardening and book marketing. The book is now the best rated book about the Caribbean on, you can see it here, but I am always trying to think of new ways to get it out there. It has now been reviewed by onlinebookclub, but they haven’t published the review yet on line. The man who did the review took the time out to write to me and said:

I just finished reviewing your book for and I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the book.
Your book give one of the best set of insights into the Latin American mindset that I have read." 

So I am anxiously waiting for the review to appear!

I have also just been video interviewed for this morning, and that will appear in a couple of weeks.

On line interviews or conversations are always difficult, as not only is there the concern about the quality of the connection, if the electricity goes off then so does the internet. So I have to explain all of the different scenarios when we start, i.e. if I disappear, just wait until I have chance to plug my usb internet stick in, or pray the fast internet returns. But the main problem I have is one of background noise. I can do little to stop the cocks crowing, or the dogs barking, but I try and ask the people to be quiet. That is apparently impossible. Dominicans are unable to stop talking or making noise for more than 10 seconds. When it is a conversation with no video I manage with violent hand gestures telling them to shut up, but as today was a video interview that wasn't possible.

Chivirico had decided to do the washing and refused to use the washing machine, and seemed unable to stop singing while he did it.

He also used a whole gallon of bleach, and I daren't go and look at the washing line.

Husband was talking on the phone – well, shouting down the phone as is unable to speak normally on the telephone, and Hector was mopping. He mopped silently for a change but as he had no idea the video was on I am sure he will appear in shot more than once, and if you see the video I am sure you will be able to work out when he is making me lift my feet up to mop under and around me.

The weather continues with sunny days and stormy afternoons and evenings. The storms are amazing, and as we are high up we are actually in the clouds. This picture was taken in daylight.

I am still winning the corn wars, and have even managed to get butternut squash to grow. I have never had it and no idea what to do with it, but it will make a lovely change from Dominican auyama or pumpkin.

Unfortunately as well as the vegetables growing, the weeds are too, and to be honest I have no idea where to start, as there are so many. Lurking within them are yuca plants, Dominican peas and Hector's corn.

The usual curved balls continue to plague us. We have a car which is on loan, which husband took to the car wash a couple of days ago. The car wash man is called Jimmy, a Haitian who is desperate for a foreign girlfriend. Husband promised to find him one (he was joking) and so as a thank you Jimmy not only washed the car and valeted the inside, he also washed the engine, with a high pressure hose. All the electric bits now don’t work, including the computer, so the car is in hospital waiting to be fixed. Who would think about washing an engine? Hey ho.

In the meantime, Chivirico is here for the rest of the summer. We have loads of mangoes, so I decided he could make mango toffee. To stop the flies I told him to cover the toffee up with a fly screen while he was working. I didn't mean he should cover himself up too!

And the toffee wouldn't set - so he is not impressed with me at the minute.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Garden war is on

Here we have a war going on between the Dominican Republic and the UK. It is the war of the garden.
Hector, you remember him, decided to show me how gardening should be done as apparently I don’t do it properly. I clear the land of stones, dig the ground, make nice long straight rows, read the seed packet, plant to the right depth, weed the surrounding area and nurture and care for the plants.

My straight line of zucchini/courgettes

He says you don’t do it like that. You throw the seed on the ground and it grows. So the gloves are off and we are about to see which system works best. Oh and he says Dominican seeds are much better than the seeds I use which have been brought from the UK, Canada and the USA.

Round one involves corn. Here is his corn.

Planted all over the garden in no particular order, although I must say he started two weeks after mine was planted and his is catching up.
Here is mine.

Next are peas. Here are his Dominican peas – again all over the place. They are the little pale green bullet like ones which are usually mixed with in rice to make moro de guandules. There is his yuca in the background which was up against my parsnips. I don't mention those as nothing happened.

And here are my American peas which actually have pea pods on now. Nice juicy green sweet peas.

I did cheat a bit as I decided to weed and pulled up a few of his peas as they look like weeds to me. He replanted them and it doesn't seem to have done them any harm.

Most other things are doing well, such as the cherry tomatoes which we have been eating.

I am a little concerned about the cauliflowers, as although they are enormous.

There appear to be no flowers at all, no white bits in the middle – so I just have the leaves. No idea where the flower bit has gone or if they will arrive eventually.

I think the leaves will be full of holes soon as the last week has seen the garden swarming with butterflies - I have never seen so many and they are absolutely everywhere and all having rampant sex. So no doubt millions of caterpillars will be munching their way through my cauliflowers soon.

On a very exciting note, we have just had a visit from the fish man. Not exactly the most handsome of chaps and no idea where the T shirt comes from. He has his chest freezer on the back of his bike and the scales hang of the handlebars.

But the great news is that he brought prawns. I haven’t had a prawn in years.

Major excitement in the house, so tonight we will have jambalaya and tomorrow Thai spicy prawn soup. I can't wait!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Help - there is a witch on the roof

Chivirico is staying here for his summer holidays. The other morning, having slept like a log all night, he told me he had heard something on the roof.

As the house is three storeys high, and the roof slopes and has a big overhang, nothing can get up there – not even a rat. I told him it must have been a bird.

The following morning at 6 am, I heard something on the roof, and if it was a bird it was wearing hob nailed boots. It scampered around for around 10 minutes and then silence again.

I told my husband when he woke up and he quite calmly said “It is a witch”. He said they live in the countryside and come when there is a child in the house. They suck the blood from the children, but only if they have not been baptized. He was deadly serious.

I decided to do some research, and speaking to the neighbours they say it is not a witch but a Ciguapa (pronounced see – gwa – pah) and they are well aware of it/her around here.

Ciguapas  have the form of a female with brown or dark blue skin, and very long manes of smooth, glossy hair that covers their otherwise naked bodies. They supposedly inhabit the high and remote mountains of the Dominican Republic and are beautiful but evil.

They only come out at night and are very difficult to follow as their footprints go backwards as their feet are backward facing.  Some people believe that they bring death, and it is said that one should not look them in the eye, otherwise the person is at risk of being bewitched permanently. Also, the only sound they make is said to be a kind of whine or chirping.

Luckily for me and Chivirico they are not into women or children. It is said that usually only men see them and they are so beautiful they lure the men into the forest to have sex with them only to kill them afterwards.

Legend says that the ciguapa are the spirits of Taino women who died while hiding from Spanish settlers in the Cordillera Central – the central mountain area. They haunt the mountain trails by night, seducing young men to their deaths. However it has been argued that the myth was brought to the island by slaves during the colonial period.

They are known to be insanely jealous, so it is said that if you hear them howling, hold on to your man to stop him following her as that would lead to certain death for him. Gulp!