For those of you who know Ron, you also know that his passions are fishing and gardening. If you come to visit us, generally you’ll find him puttering around in the huge garden in our back yard. If he’s not there, he’ll be in the front yard, fishing. Our little La Paloma beach house is the perfect setting for Ron. The early morning sun rises above Vulcan Concepcion spreading its tropical rays on his mounds of fruits and vegetables scattered throughout the half-acre garden. The fence is dotted with wild purple morning glories and vibrant yellow flowers resembling an old English country garden watercolor painting. In our front yard, Lake Cocibolca waves her gentle fingers beyond our front doors tempting Ron with her aquatic delights. Life couldn’t be more perfect, or more picturesque.
With a year round growing season, Ron has experimented with a variety of fruits and vegetables. His cucumbers, papaya, green beans, sweet potatoes, black beans, black-eyed peas, oregano, and greens are bearing now. It’s been a constant battle, though, with the neighbor’s chickens, the nematodes, leaf-cutter ants, and yesterday, the wild horse that got in the garden and ate the leaves off his banana tree. The only consolation was that the horse manure landed exactly in the right spot. The neighborhood kids were here playing baseball yesterday and they forgot to close the front gate. This morning, Julio spotted the horse and he and his four bony dogs chased it out of the yard.
Our friends and neighbors have generously supplied us with sweet potato cuttings, peanuts, basil, mint, and other starter plants. Ron has tenderly nurtured carrots and beets for months now, but so far, they refuse to grow. Some people have told us to pee on the plants, but that hasn’t solved the problem. There are so many mysteries to tropical gardening. The volcanic soil is rich and sandy, yet it lacks certain nutrients. For example, Ron’s tomato plants were growing tall and spindly like something out of Jack and the Bean Stock, so one of my former English students told Ron to try pouring milk in the soil. Instead, he mixed up the liquid calcium supplement I bought from the traveling pharmacist, and it worked like a charm. Now, they have been attacked by nematodes, so he had to sterilize the soil and plant them in buckets to prevent another nematode onslaught.
Ron’s garden is dotted with avocado trees, papayas, eggplant, peppers, cantaloupe, and garbanzo beans. Between the rows and circles, Ron machetes the tall grass to make mounds of compost. It’s a never-ending job. But, in the process, Ron has lost over twenty pounds. Today, he was showing me his arms and his machete arm appears to be twice the size of his other one. He’s becoming a real pro with his machete…. a sign that he’s fitting into this primitive, macho world of ours.
Although all the neighbors like to visit Ron’s garden, it’s really puzzling that no one has a garden of their own here. We can’t understand why they don’t garden. There are large fields of tobacco, plantains, coffee, rice, beans, and sesame seeds, but no family gardens. We haven’t figured out if they lack the initiative or the know how, or both. Don Jose, our closest neighbor, sometimes doesn’t have enough food to feed his family, yet he has a big garden spot behind his house that is overgrown with mango trees, lemons, and other tropical fruit trees. One of the locals recently told us, “We like to pick and we like to eat.” That’s very true. Maybe they just don’t know how to dig and plant. Fruits are so abundant here and easily obtainable. If we want lemons, mangos, oranges, coconuts, hot peppers, or other fruits, we walk outside and gather them off the trees or the ground.
When Ron gets tired of gardening or macheting, he grabs his fishing pole and heads to the lake. The lake near our house is very shallow and sandy. Although, the Guapote ( the big, fat fish of the lake) are generally found in the more rocky, deeper areas, he’s been successful at catching smaller, silvery fighting fish that jump into the air about six feet. The Munchaca are harder to eat because they have lots of little bones.
His fishing pole is still a novelty in the land of long fishing nets. Strangers walking along the shore will often stop and stare at Ron casting his line into the lake. They’re sort of befuddled with the unusual contraption and don’t know what to make of it. One day, Ron took his electronic fish finder to the lake with him and you can’t imagine all the fuss that it created. For the past week, Cory and Sam have been flying a spider man kite. The end of November and December are the windy months…excellent kite weather. With lots of creative ingenuity and third world materials, they attached the kite to Ron’s fishing pole and tested it out at the beach. As a result, we’ve learned many new Spanish words like… tail, kite, wind, and crash and burn.
Ron is also the household chef. I’m glad that he enjoys cooking because it gives me more time to write. Like his fishing pole, a cocina man “kitchen man” is a novelty on Ometepe and I suspect in all Latin American cultures. The neighbors are in awe when they see Ron in the kitchen preparing a meal. Several years ago, when I asked my English student boys how to prepare plantains or other exotic fruits and vegetables, they gave me blank stares. They had no idea what takes place in a kitchen. The cocina is an alien world full of frilly aprons, smoky fires, squawking pigs, and crying babies. I gave them a writing assignment one day. “Go home and write the recipe for your favorite meal, in English.” They had to interview their mothers and translate the recipes into English. Not many could do it and the recipes I got were useless because they don’t use measuring cups or ovens. The recipes were hysterical with words like, drain the blood, gather the wood, use a fistful of oil, and locate a chicken egg.
So now you have a little peek into my amazing husband’s life. He’s definitely a keeper!! I’ve seen these young Nica women eyeing him and smiling seductively at a gringo who likes to cook, fish, and garden and I may have to swat them away with my twig broom. Life on Ometepe suits him well. As the neighbors say, “He’s a beddy goot man.”