The Seventh Year (1977): Sangarro, Managua and the USA

January 14: Today we had a fine duck dinner - a celebration of 7 days of working at harvesting our corn and beans. We've laid away a year's supply of both!

This year for Christmas we cut and decorated a small Christmas tree, had a raft of brightly packaged presents under it, hung two socks over the fireplace, lit several candles and then Teo and I went out (about 8 o'clock) and gave one last call for Dick and Beth (who we were expecting, but they hadn't come). And from up on the hill came a shout back!!! Our Christmas guests had arrived. We ate and drank the last gallon of last year's wine and had a fine Christmas Eve. Later the boys were asleep and as we filled their stockings Dick asked, "Do you guys do this two nights? You know we came a day early and tonight is the 23rd!" We had lost a day! So we celebrated Christmas for two whole days and nights. Dick and Beth gave us a battery operated recorder and six cassette tapes (classical and folk music). Elizabeth surprised us with four hand-embroidered shirts with a hexagon and pine tree inside - one for each of us right down to Machua … all in a pretty light blue. Teo loves his little figures - horses, cows and people -- which he is continually reorganizing into different fantasies.

The three days after Christmas we harvested and prepared our "1976" wine - one batch is bottled now, the rest still fermenting in plastic buckets. We manage to put up some 80 gallons this year which should insure some "1976" for many years to come.

Also we've cultivated and fertilized about 1/3 of our coffee with 2/3rds left to do.

On the animal scene things have been popping since the day we got back. That first night a new calf, "Christmas," was born. He's a beauty. Also 11 ducklings, 18 chicks and a baby goat! We have 5 goats - cutest, perkiest damn things. We're now anxiously awaiting our 2nd calf of the year.

We've been progressing at training our 2 ½ year old Sangarro born stallion. We put on quite a show for Teo. First Mom got thrown. So Dad stepped in with the same result! Then steady progress for three days until I climbed on him, with spurs on, and did I find out he hadn't forgotten how to buck. Head over heals I flew over his head and skidded into the dirt. Luckily I have only a few sore spots and now, a week later, we're riding the old boy all over the pasture but still with caution.

February 9: So busy we've been since getting back to the farm and the "peaceful life" - ha, ha - every day is an adventure here and at least now, hardly a minute to rest.

The big project lately has been a new dam. We want a good-sized pond for ducks and fish. We traded ten pine trees for 4 hours of caterpillar tractor work, making a big dirt fill and our work since has been facing it, first with a stone base, and starting today, with a brick facing. We have the help of a stonemason neighbor on this project. We have worked as hard as ever in our lives on this project - bailing water, hauling stone and sand, mixing concrete. This project ought to put us back in shape. The boys love this project too - mud, sand and stones to play with. Machua has been with us much of every day for a week and Teo, well he's just another of the workers, although sometimes he's doing his own thing. One day he loaded 250 pounds of bricks on his wagon, and with Machua pushing and him pulling, hauled them to the work area. He digs, hoes, machetes and talks, talks, talks - "Dad, What does head-to-toe mean?" "Mom, do trees fuck?" Adolfo, "Que vas hacer ya?"

A few weeks ago our young stallion broke through the fence and took up with 5 mares on a neighboring mountain. Three times I tried to corral and or rope him with no success and several brush cuts and my poor horse almost dead from exhaustion. Needless to say I got madder every time he pranced away. Yesterday I finally got a rope on him. The last time we butchered a bull, the first thing I did, with Beth's instructions, was castrate him. Well, before the rope was taken off our stallion, we practiced our new skill on him. With Elizabeth pulling on ropes and his tail and two little boys starring big-eyed-eyed through the corral, I wielded the knife! He should now be a better, safer riding horse and do less fence jumping.

February 14: We left the farm at 5am and arrived in Managua at Noon to renew relationships here, relax for a few days, and see if we have employment here for part of this year. We spent from Noon to 3pm getting a neighbor's 15-year old kid committed to the psychiatric hospital! And possibly cured of epilepsy and severe crazies. These poor country people had been to Managua five times seeking help to no avail and as the kid was tearing down San Fernando, they asked us for help. It all went very smooth until the last minute when the kid blew his top and 3 strong-armed attendants took him into the loony bin. Hopefully they can cure him, if not, the family is gasping with relief to have him gone. The sad part is that probably the failure to treat his epilepsy five years ago is what drove him crazy.

March 14: Yesterday we had a setback! Nothing really important - just two month's work and about $300! Our "great" dam fell in!!! Fifty feet across, ten feet high containing 1,200 bricks on the face. At least we had the dubious pleasure to watch it happen. I was putting in the last shovels full of dirt behind the brick facing and I guess I threw in the proverbial straw. Great cracks started opening up on top of the dam and in about one minute the face broke loose and toppled into the lake! I just sat down and contemplated the transitory nature of man's works, and just what the hell error I had made, and swore sufficiently to express my emotions.

There's still a dam there. I sloped it off and plan to spend a week reinforcing it and planting it but without a "waterproof" facing - little chance that it will hold when the rains come. Elizabeth says, "Forget it." But I'm fool enough not to know when to throw in the towel. What's another week's work!

We have a new outhouse and a clean well and new cedar shake roof on it and 100 new adobe blocks made for work on the house. And we are all well with some new muscles thanks to the damn dam. And today we're on our way to Orosi (12 miles away) to get some fish! and visit some very nice neighbors.

March 26: 7am and Mateo and I are waiting for the stores to open. We left Sangarro in the dark - pretty exciting! We are taking Raphael and family back to the farm today to start their tour of duty. We are happy to have them back.

From the 29th of this month to April 5th we are going to take a trip with Dick and Beth to Costa Rica, then a week back on the farm, and then off to start work in Managua again.

Teo is really bi-lingual. He speaks English all of the time with us and very curious about new words but with Spanish speakers, especially children, he slips into Spanish as if he hardly knows he's done it. His Spanish vocabulary isn't as extensive as mine, but he can use simple verbs and phrases that I don't know - and fluently!

April 18: Our trip to Costa Rica, though for only one week, was very interesting and enjoyable. Costa Rica is quite a bit more developed than Nicaragua. We went first to an agricultural research institute in Turrialba - the most advanced in Central America -- and camped five miles away on a rampaging river with a suspension walking bridge. We were either playing along the river or learning about agriculture (mainly coffee and sugar cane) either at the institute or with local farmers.

Next we went to a community founded 25 years ago by Quakers. They are dairy farmers with a community cheese factory and good Holstein cows. Their community is in very high rainy country described as "cloud forest." The countryside is either dense jungle or little green pastures spotted with contented cows and little farmsteads nestled along the edges -- very picturesque and very interesting. The people seem solid very hard-working. We spent one day with a farmer, including diner, traded stories of farming in the tropics and generally spent a fine day. We brought back a truckload of new plants and seeds.

Spent a week back at the farm - working like mad getting the farm in good shape and lining up work for Don Raphael (who we are so happy with) and yesterday back to Managua to start our teaching work today. Dick and Beth are still here and sharing our house but will go back to the States in two weeks. Tonia is still here and our full-time baby sitter and good friend. Teo carries on in Spanish - but he does have his friend Ronald saying "you" and "me" instead of "usted" y "yo" and Ronald thinks my name is "Daddy."

May 3: We went to the farm this weekend; planted 200 banana trees and watched twins born to one of our best cows! A male and a female, both big and healthy!

It's the time of waiting for the rains. We're in the last weeks of the dry season - hot and dusty and with the rains will come explosions of green and new growth. Raphael and Licha are fine and now have a ten month-old boy.

May 26: I'm feeling happy today being back in Managua, having just spent two weeks in the mountains getting the farm planted while Elizabeth and the boys stayed here in Managua. My trip was a nice, fairly lonely adventure; however, I did immensely enjoy the company and food of Raphael and Licha -- real tortillas and bean living.

On Friday I visited a half dozen people between San Fernando and Santa Clara, dropping off a young male goat at Bing's and getting a load of sawed lumber at Troy's mill. Then on Saturday I rode down to Bing's house, helped him slaughter the goat and spent that night and half of Sunday enjoying the meat, rum, and good talk. Boy do those Corn Islanders know something about cooking goat meat - the best meat I've ever eaten.

The farm work was planting work. A big garden, big patch of sugar cane, yucca, pineapple, beans, corn, vino, fruit trees and 60 mahogany, cedar and walnut trees! The trees are our hardwood cash crop for when we're 90 years old or our Nicaraguan grandchildren are just getting started.

June 17: The farm is now green, green, green. Pine tree green. Pasture green. Coffee green. Banana green. Ten inches of rain in the last 20 days! And spread out such that the dam is even holding. Last year in May we had only one rain and that was 8 inches in ½ hour!

My friend Bing, who has set up his own mechanic shop in Santa Clara, came to Managua last week to buy tools. We spent 3 fine days together and then came back together.

I also brought back a purebred Brown Swiss milk calf three days old (a male). I bought him from the best dairy in Nicaragua, run by Jesuit Brothers. I've got him suckling on a cow along with her calf and also feeding him from a pail. We'll see if he can survive these rugged mountain conditions. We now have seven calves.

August 1: There's been fighting in Managua, Masaya, Mataglapa and patrols of the army and the revolutionaries moving around in the mountains. It's not feeling too safe here right now. We're going to take a break and go back to the USA. I've heard from a friend, Kevin Morse, from the University of Texas days, who now teaches at Pan American University in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. I think we'll start looking for work there.