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 Tepak√°n, Yucatan.

A Book Review : : THE OVERSTORY, (trees as a metaphor for life itself)

Photo, (fair use)

For those who haven’t read this novel, The Overstory, (about trees as metaphor and reality) you are missing a new classic. (The chapter titled Patricia Westerford, a forest research botanist who discovers that trees communicate with each other, alone is worth the price of the entire volume.)  NYTimes author interview.  (Winner, Pulitzer Prize.)

The theme of the novel is a grand tapestry, perhaps detectable in this short excerpt:  

No one sees trees. ¬†We see fruit, we see nuts, we see shade. ¬†We see ornaments or pretty fall foliage. ¬†Obstacles blocking the road or wrecking the ski slope. ¬†Dark, threatening places that must be cleared. ¬†We see branches about to crush our roof. ¬†We see a cash crop. ¬†But tress‚ÄĒtrees are invisible. ¬†

The book is long and the prose is vibrant. ¬†The story is told thru its characters, and the early chapters are named after them. ¬†Pay attention. ¬†Make a crib sheet, even ‚ÄĒ a cast of characters with a thumbnail of their backstories. ¬†These characters will reappear further into the account. Their accounts are gripping and the lessons instructive. ¬†If you care about your home you will be glad you encountered this masterwork.

NASA photo by Reid Wiseman



Dust jacket quote from Margaret Atwood:

“If Powers were an American writer of the nineteenth century, which writer would he be? ¬†He’d ¬†probably be Herman Melville of¬†Moby Dick. ¬†His picture is that big.”