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As a family, we’ve now lived on the property we own outside of Gracias Lempira for two years. My first night actually sleeping here was Christmas Eve, 2009, although some family members moved into our new buildings earlier, for security reasons. I thought it might be fun – and maybe even a good motivational moment for me – to look back and see what we’ve accomplished out here on the property in the past two years.

Keep in mind that we’re not farmers, or exactly homesteaders. Allen is still a full-time missionary, and I’m mostly just a housewife and homeschooling mom with moderately severe asthma (which slows me down considerably in most every activity that doesn’t involve sitting on the couch). Lots of what has been accomplished outdoors has happened with the help of a small crew of local guys who work for us pretty regularly. When Allen has a bridge project, the crew goes with him and works on that, and when he isn’t working on a bridge, they do a variety of jobs here on our land.

So, with all that in mind, I compiled this list.

Inside our two buildings:

First on the list is the successful installation of a solar power system. The path to solar power hasn’t been without bumps and setbacks, but at this time things are running pretty smoothly. We regularly run our lights, computers, washing machine, refrigerator, chest freezer, and dishwasher . . . but not all at the same time! Allen and the kids also installed a solar water heating system, with a gas hot water heater for backup.

Allen installed a door in our bathroom (though it still doesn’t have a doorknob). If this doesn’t seem list-worthy to you, it probably means you haven’t ever spent time undressed in a room with a curtain doing the job of a door – trust me, bathroom doors are a major achievement of civilized living.

Outdoors:

We’ve repaired the fence all the way around the property – which was necessary, as the cows kept finding ways to get out! We’ve also fenced in two garden areas, and several acres of pasture, for when we don’t want the cows to have the run of the entire property. With the cows a bit more contained, I’m hoping we can make some progress on adding landscaping plants around the buildings.

At the top of the property some of the grading of the land has been done – though there’s lots more of this to do – and an area of grassy lawn has been established in front of both buildings. Since we started with very little dirt – mostly just lots of small rocks – on the ground around our buildings, the lawn work required spreading huge quantities of soil and manure, and then getting the grass to sprout and grow well during the dry season, so we wouldn’t lose all the new soil to erosion. This was quite a big job!

Plants:

We continue to slowly and gradually increase our vegetable gardening skills. Boo is our most reliable gardener, and I’m so grateful for her very responsible attitude, especially when I get sidelined by sickness. We’ve been moderately successful with green peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, beets, green beans, radishes and kohlrabi. Apparently we aren’t advanced enough to grow tomatoes.

We’re also working on getting some fruits growing around here. We have wild craboo trees, but most of our family isn’t fond of craboo. Russell and David get to enjoy all of that! We’ve now planted several mango and guava trees, and we’ve started some tangerine plants from seeds. Eventually you should have to drive through a grove of fruit trees to get up to our house. I also have two berry bushes started. I’ll keep them in pots for a while, and hopefully establish a berry patch later this year. Friends have offered to bring us some banana trees to plant, but we’ve been so swamped recently we haven’t had time for that yet. Soon, though, we should be growing bananas.

Russell planted a small field of cane grass for us, which is intended to help feed the cows during the dry season, when most of the regular grass dries up and dies. If I understand correctly, after this grass grows tall, you cut it down partway, and it grows back up again, so it doesn’t have to be replanted in the future.

Animals:

Our collection of cattle now includes 1 bull, 2 cows, and a just barely 1 yr old heifer. We recently acquired our first little pig.

Our dogs have given birth to thirty puppies (3 litters, from different dogs) this year. Some pups have been kept, but most are sold. Our current batch of puppies – Rottweilers – are especially adorable, and should be leaving for new homes in the next few weeks.

Our attempts to keep poultry have recently been failures, mostly because our own dogs see poultry as prey. In order to keep any poultry in the future, we’ll need to construct some amazingly secure coops. So far, we haven’t felt that this was the best use of our time and funds.

Sooo, that’s my list. I’ve been thinking about this, and working on it, off and on all day. I meant to ask Allen and the kids for their input, but they’re all in bed now, and I want to go ahead and post this. There’s a pretty good chance I’ll be adding some additional items to this list tomorrow, after they’ve had a chance to add their thoughts.

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Gus adds:

Installed the satellite internet (how could I have neglected to mention this???)
Built the raised beds in the vegetable garden
Installed a permanent water line down to the lower (farther away) garden
Built a storage loft above the bathroom
Built a new water storage tank for the neighbor with whom we share a water system (although this didn’t improve our property, it did improve our water supply)
Installed a sink in the bathroom
Put in the stone walkway in front of the bodega