As Judith and I drove out of the parking lot we passed police officers speeding in and towards the scene of the accident. We alerted AJ and asked him to keep us posted on the drama as it unfolded.
Thanks to proximity and good directions we found The Palmarosa without further event. The only problem was that Judith’s car has begun to leak terribly and the passenger side filled up with water as we drove through unavoidable puddles. This was yet another problem of hers that I was unable to solve.
As per instruction we parked in the drive of my cousin Alan’s friend (the cattle rancher). There, we found Alan waiting to transport us in his Jeep to his place. Judith is a trooper and at the point when any other lady of her stature may have refused, she climbed into the Jeep without complaint. I rode on the floor, in the back, with the multiple bottles of wine and 12 pack of beer we had brought. A few random items and an Icehouse bottle rolled around to keep me company. This was my kind of fun!
Up until this point we had traversed upon paved (albeit flooded) roadways. That was all about to change.
(Alan, I trust you when you told me you read this blog, so I implore you to refresh me with all of the details (such as distances, animal names, story corrections etc. For now I will work with my fleeting impressions.)
We immediately departed from the paved road into a swirling, muddy river that could have easily been a head water of The Amazon. Alan managed to give a running commentary as he adeptly yanked on the steering wheel and changed gears. “It would figure that the one time we get four inches of rain in a day is the same day you come to see the place!” More than once, chocolate colored water cascaded over the hood as we plunged through the washed out sections of the dirt (mud) road. Judith didn’t say much as she hung on for dear life.
About midway Alan pointed out a particularly waterlogged section and explained that this was “the hill” that had washed out. He had just finished repairing it with his trackhoe. The repair was hard to gauge since the muddy water obscured almost everything, but we took his word for it.
After I had thoroughly gotten my mud-bogging fix, we arrived at the gate of The Palmarosa.
The rest of the way was a breeze, and within moments we were picking our way over partially submerged stepping-stones onto a well-fortified deck. Inside we shed our wet footwear and converged around the kitchen bar for the beginning of a fun and entertaining night. Robie (Christine’s son) came in with a container full of freshly gathered eggs. Robie (who graduated from high school this week) has taken to the agrarian life quite well, and I think he will miss it when he leaves to join the Navy.
First we got the many bottles of wine and beer into their proper places, and within moments I had a full glass in my hand. This glass remained full throughout the night, and is the reason I give for my inability to recall certain details. That being said, I challenge a seasoned stenographer to record the events at the Palmarosa without error. We had but a few hours to get up to date on everything about the Palmarosa since they had acquired it; and they were up to the task.
The light was fading fast and the rain wasn’t about to stop, so the first order of business was my inspection of the property. Christine entertained Judith while Alan gave me the grand tour. I was provided with rain boots and a heavy-duty rain jacket.
We stepped outside, where the light was beautiful and the animals were wet and bearing pathetic expressions. Despite their condition, each creature expressed enthusiasm at our arrival and approached us asking for something to eat. All I had was an empty hand. Some snubbed me while others settled for a good scratching. They all had names. When I asked Alan if he had a problem eating animals he had named, he said that it didn’t bother him much. They need names so that he can instruct the kids as to which animal he wants them to attend to. I got the impression that there isn’t a whole lot of eating these animals going on. Both Alan and Christine are animal lovers and although he wanted to BBQ the “banded” Nubian goat, she wouldn’t allow it. Once I met the goat I understood. He was the friendliest of the bunch, and pushed his way through the crowd to greet us.
This is not him, but it may be his mother. They were all quite tame.
Herford/Angus mix calf.
Disenfranchised Pygmy Billy Goat
Potbellied Pigs. Marshmallow (the white one) is pregnant.
Some of the cattle. On the left is a Hereford cow, then a Brahma cow, the calf in the middle belongs to the Limousin cow on the right and its father, the Black Angus bull, is on the right. Alan spent a good deal of time explaining the different breeds and the names for each hybrid mix. For example, the offspring of a Brahma and an Angus is called a “Brangus”.
Forget what you think you know about black bulls. Some of them are downright friendly. This one came right up to us and asked to have his head scratched. I could have stood there in the puddle and scratched his massive face for an hour, but the sun was going down and we still had more to see.
Next, Alan took me to the huge garden, where he has just about everything you can imagine growing and thriving. He and Christine have configured trellises, irrigation and a plant protection system utilizing plastic cups. He confirmed that the cups were put in place to protect the plants from pests.
As we toured the garden, Alan discovered his first squash. I was proud to document this gardening landmark. It was a perfect squash that later found it’s delicious way into our dinner salad.
After the garden we waded over to the hog pen. The hogs were just as friendly as the rest of the livestock; and the boar even tried to leap over the fence to greet us. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that they smelled pretty bad; but pigs always do. Even so, they were the most enthusiastic pigs I’ve ever met. I think they could detect the squash in Alan’s pocket!
The light was fading fast, so we bid the hogs “adieu” and moved on to the chicken coop. The chickens had great digs and seemed glad to be protected from the rain and mud. Alan described the different breeds and pointed out the smattering of roosters that had been sold to him as hens. Although they weren’t earning their keep, they were allowed to stay. I didn’t hear any crowing, but I imagine there is a cacauphany when the sun comes up. In the adjacent section of the coop I noticed that there were some guineas. I think Alan told me that they were there to keep the chickens calm.
By the time we got back to the house it was almost dark. The porch doubles as a nursery, and is packed with healthy fruit and vegetable plants.
Here is a pepper. Can’t remember which one it is.
This strawberry was very yummy!
After the tour we went back inside where it was decided that another mud-bogging trip was in order to take Christine to pick up the truck and to take me to get the tea bags I had left in the car, as well as some of Judith’s pills.
Back from that adventure, we eventually got around to eating. I was having so much fun that I almost forgot that we hadn’t eaten for hours. Christine and Alan bustled about and produced a delectable feast consisting of a homegrown garden salad, sweet potatoes, green beans and locally grown beef ribs. It was all superb, and I’m sure I forgot to chew with my mouth closed.
As we ate, the show continued. Throughout the evening Alan shared his growing wisdom and experiences. I learned about pressure canning and got jars of the things Alan had canned, including an amazing chow-chow, strawberry preserves and Palmarosa datil pepper ketchup. He also bestowed upon me a very unique and practical device for recycling newspapers into starter pots. It’s called the Pot Maker, and I can’t wait to try it!
I know we weren’t the first and only visitors to The Palmarosa, but they treated us to such hospitality and story-telling as if we were. There were tales of chicken-eating bobcats, neighborhood dogs which killed their beloved goats, pet cats running away and reappearing months later and a number of other exciting events that don’t happen in the suburbs. I visited Alan’s daughter (Farah’s) room which she was sharing with two adorable new rabbits. I sat on the floor and scratched the ears of a terrified looking bunny until he gradually calmed down. Farah held the other sweet rabbit like a stuffed animal and explained to me that they were called “Lionhead” rabbits; a breed I had never heard of. I would have taken some pictures, but I didn’t want to scare them with the flash.
The next thing I knew it was already midnight and I was sitting on the living room floor surrounded by packets of seeds. Alan produced his massive seed collection and proceeded to load me up with countless things I didn’t have. One of my upcoming projects is to start a page listing all of my seeds. Until then, keep an eye out for new plantings as I gradually find room for more things.
Chris and Alan begged us to stay the night, but Judith needed to get home. It wasn’t until after 1:00am that we had mud-bogged back to her car. About 30 minutes later we had to admit that we had gotten thoroughly lost and found ourselves almost 13 miles south of where we had started. Judith didn’t make it home until after 2:00am.
What a night!