Venturing into the village

by cheryl on November 10, 2016

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I can be happy in my cozy apartment, drinking tea and writing all day long, which I did for nearly a week. But that’s not good for me. I’m in Europe, for goodness’ sake! I have explored the small city, Lagos, for 6 weeks now. I needed to venture into the small village of Odiaxere where I live. I’d been waiting until I bought a 125cc scooter, since it seemed like a long way on foot from our farm to the center of town.

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Only a 20-minute walk and I was in.

I love trees. Life incarnate, ever growing and changing. Friendly, nurturing energy. I must be a tree-hugger! Who loves Nutella, which should be named Crackella, but that’s another blog.

Here, some trees I encountered on my walk into Odiaxere. Tall, spindly trees; lush, gnarly trees, Trees for shade, fruit and beauty. Palm trees, lemon trees, fig trees, trees giving shadow…

tree trees-field trees-lollipop trees-palm trees-sun-fence

 

Trees that look like they are full of little birds

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 The cacti are epic.

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I love doors. An invitation to adventure, to better things. A barrier, a warning. See what these doors evoke in you.

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I love cobblestones. Hand-cut and grouted. Streets full of them!

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One sweet church

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And the town centre fountain. I spelled it like they do (not trying to be pretentious).

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There is a Trip-Advisor approved Indian restaurant I’d like to try. The sign says, “Indian Curry House & Pizzeria”. I’ve not seen that combination before, but I look forward to going there, with its sweet one-table patio.

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I also love anything in ruins, weathered, wise. The imperfect, barely-standing, patina laden structures, and people. There is such beauty in the lives of these facades. Perhaps this is why countries outside the U.S. revere their elderly, as it should be. The stories and wisdom housed by the elders are priceless and demand respect.

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On one such wall, the ivy bursts forth. For me, the greenery mocks the myth that old is lifeless.

I enter the news shop. The woman hears my Portuguese mixed with English. She is pointedly cold to me and it stings. I buy the Portugal News to see about placing an ad for a used scooter. Next, I go into the tiny local grocery. It takes me more time to sort out my coins to pay—the 50-cent pieces and Euros are similarly sized. The proprietor is patient. She smiles at me and I feel it to my bones. I try to express myself in Portuguese but can’t, and another woman speaks to me in English, “I’ll tell her what you want to say.”

“Please tell her thank you for being kind to me, even though I don’t yet know your language.”

She related this to the store owner, who smiled wider and put her hand on her heart. Makes me very aware of how to treat those who don’t speak the local language.

I pass by the  teeny local bar, painted yellow, and a lush garden.

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Heading back, shadows elongate; sounds of farm dogs yip continuously, waiting for their dinner.

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When I get back to the farm, my feet hurt (I have walked about 4 hours today, a stretch for me) and the air has caught a chill. I check in on the ducks and haul some of the dropped (not harvest-worthy) oranges by wheelbarrow to the farm’s side area for forgotten fruit.

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I’ll need to make a fire and I am afraid. The last fire I lit was in Girl Scouts. I was twelve, and it was co-lit. I grew up very afraid of fire and matches, so have never worked a grill or lit any kind of pilot light, indoors or out. You could say it’s a phobia. Was a phobia. I have lit two of my own fires today!

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I didn’t have much of a choice since I can freeze inside the stone farmhouse with no heat, or I can gather kindling and use the big logs my neighbor has so generously provided me. Initially, I hadn’t been sure if it was a real woodstove or electric/gas driven, so when I mentioned this to my neighbor, a seasoned electrician, construction worker and survivalist, he looked at me as if I were crazy. Not a good crazy either. I almost gave up on the first fire, since it kept smoldering, but I researched YouTube and then built up the sticks and logs in the right order, and voila! Blazing orange power. It’s comforting and mesmerizing, and now I can admire myself a little like I have always admired serious outdoor survivalists, or even people who can tent-camp. I’ll still take a cabin, please.

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Chicks, camping and hachets

by cheryl on October 22, 2016

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Started the day with cardamom oatmeal and fresh figs… A few days ago, we received the gift of 3 new baby chickens! Not yellow chicks, but 3 week-old chickens. The white one is called Tiny, black one (named by Lillian’s grandson) is Pixie, and I named the light brown one Bambi. Thelma and Louise are 2 of the full-grown hens you’ll see as soon as I am able to upload their video…

It’s impossible to stress how strange the idea of living blissfully on a farm has ever been to me. Loving nature since my childhood, my parents hosted a menagerie of critters including cats, a dog, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, and even a raccoon until it bit my sister. Oh, and a wayward possum who scurried up from our dirt-floor basement (old house) to the living room. My father wanted to keep the possum but my mother would have none of it, thankfully, so it was led back outdoors to return to its posse (Bert Jackson, is this a pun?)

mom-and-dad-on-honeymoonElaine and Raymond Kain, musicians/cooks/animal lovers

Falling into my twenties, I enjoyed Coach bags and vintage clothes, nice restaurants and clean hands. In my thirties, I had a boyfriend who loved camping. I pretended to. Setting up a tent deep in the California mountains, he assured me we were safe, “since there is no one around for miles.” I slept with a hachet  under my pillow, much to his dismay, since I was prone to nightmares around that time… I fancied myself as a Coach bag-loving granola cruncher, though my friends would say otherwise. I loved animals more than people, but camping/farming/anything short of a stay at Soho’s Romanesque luxury hotel was out-of-the-question. Unthinkable.

So here we are: Mosquito bites sometimes daily. Chicken poop on the soles of my farm shoes. Wearing my flu mask when we burn the hay. Giant spiders. Tiny apartment. Bats.

Also: Warm, dry weather. Low-cost of living. Our farm’s little community of people, dogs, cats, chickens, ducks. The Zen of sewing chicken wire together with blue twine, to keep the little chicks safe within their run. Hoeing rivulets of water to nourish the orange trees. Watching the clouds move and shapeshift, a favorite childhood activity, along with star-gazing. So many shooting stars! Working in tandem with nature. We won’t hoe the dirt this week, since the promised rain will feed the trees. Picking tomatoes and cabbage for us and the chickens. Bringing a baggie along to restaurant dinners to save scraps for these well-fed chickens who make the most beautiful eggs. Battening down the hatches for the impending thunderstorms with wind the force of a mild hurricane.

And just the fortunate freedom to write, wishing to share this beauty with you. I just never thought I’d do something like this, which makes it even more spirit-driven. Sometimes, in love, work, with people and places, the ego brain doesn’t initially like what become the sweetest things.

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