Sheep ranching in Yucatan

Naturalist Jim Conrad had several visitors on Monday. Early in the morning a pair of hunters walked past him, within arm’s length, while he sat in his front door, reading. They were carrying shotguns, said hello, apparently oblivious that they were intruding, and kept walking. Later in the day we would learn that another group of hunters, with dogs, were driving deer in their direction.

Around noon, after stopping for a plate of huevos Mexicanos in Teya, I delivered an old friend of Jim’s to the ranch for a site visit, while I engaged in some repairs. A valve, which enables Jim to fill a concrete stock tank providing water for local fauna, had broken. While I was rummaging in the stone hut for parts, Ines, another expected visitor showed up. At about the same time, I heard a male voice outside the hut say Jim’s name, at which point I met Tonio, a neighbor. We all collaborated in the repair, which was fun and successful. Here’s a look at the failed valve, but I never bothered to take a picture of the repair:

The concrete “funnel”directing water to the stocktank could no longer be filled, due to a broken lever.

Once we verified that our repair worked, it was time to walk along Jim’s extended trails, including past some Africanized honeybees, which had given Jim some trouble while working on the trail.

Since we were headed in the direction of Tonio’s ranch, he invited us to come see their operation which includes 27 head of sheep.

Here, a spotted ewe feeds her twins, who will soon be told to chew for themselves, being served notice by a kick in the head. (I know this, recognizing the size of her lambs, as we raised sheep up north for about fifteen years.)

Next, Tonio showed us their melipona honeybees. These bees are tiny, black, about the size of a housefly, and stingless. The honey is said to be medicinal, and is pricey, but rarely found, as the production volume is low.


Below, Ines asks Tonio about his raised-bed gardening, while Jim listens.

Louise peers down the well, which no longer needs a bucket, as they have a submersible pump to lift the water. ¶ Note the lush forage grasses, which Jim will surely write about, as he was fascinated with them. Apparently a clump was transplanted to the ranch, and has thrived during the secia (dry period) much to the appreciation of the sheep.
Softball sized clumps of tree cotton hang on the limbs of one of four varieties of ceiba tree, along the path.

I wish I had been quicker with my camera, as an old guy came around a bend with a huge load of firewood on his back, on our return to Jim’s hut. The path itself was enchanting.

Thus ends another delightful visit to the friendly hermit, Naturalist Jim Conrad, near Tepakán, Yucatan.

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