Accidental Farming on Vieques

Right now is one of those magic, peaceful moments when things are wondrously quiet. All houses, cabanas, casitas and the whole guest house, are full, but still sleeping — despite the roosters from the farm access the valley, who seem intent on waking the world. Rustling palms muffle the crowing I guess…

Botones naps beneath the nursery, an old sink we found under the main house.

Botones naps under the nursery, an old sink we found under the main house.

Drinking my coffee, looking out into the banana grove, I see something brown and small flying amongst the branches. And then, I see. It’s just a lizard. You know, one of those flying lizards, the ones that know how to launch from who knows where, and somehow land on the slightest twig of a papaya branch. Boom…. there he is. Happy to be on the bouncing branch, like I am happy to be watching.

Honestly, am I just easily impressed — or is that really cool? Bill agrees. He has become our fruit tree guy, monitoring and picking ripe fruit for the guests. He knows the secret hiding banana bunches, and when folks are most likely to see the hummingbirds who come to visit the giant blossoms. The papaya tree alone, makes us both smile. It’s one of the many volunteer papayas now popping up all over the finca. (Thank God for green papaya salad!) We have volunteers and accidents aplenty.

Like my garlic plant; the one that’s been growing up and out of our kitchen sink-drain. Truth is, I found it a week ago, poking through the slots of the dish drainer. (Okay, I’m sure there are plenty of folks who might have spotted him earlier) but there it was, a green and growing thing! A healthy, determined, sprouted garlic clove in our manager’s cabin sink. Loved him like a pet, I did — for a week — then I finally admitted he’d be happier in real dirt (more than my sink offers) so I moved him our to my budding nursery, where I plant my baby cuttings, young herb and veggie starts; seedlings I’ve gathered from farming friends on Vieques.

I get joy from the accidental garlic, and his new neighbors, the gandule (pigeon peas to savvy northerners) tree seedlings that grow easily an inch a day. These proud and strapping young cuties are the direct descendants of the trees that line the walk into Jorge’s homestead. If you knew Jorge, and his amazing one man piece of farming heaven, you’d be impressed, trust me. His is my favorite, truly awe-inspiring, traditional Puerto Rican hill top vegetable farm on the island. We took Alice Waters up there to visit last year when she’s stayed with us. Even Alice, whose probably visited more cool farms — well, certainly more than anyone I can think of, or imagine, even she admired Jorge’s green handiwork.

When I admired the young trees, last week, Jorge snapped off a couple of pods for me to take home and plant. So maybe they’re not quite accidental, but remarkable nonetheless. (Read up on gandules all ye interested farmer types) – and here they are here, thriving in my little winter nursery pot, among the racao, the rosemary, the mint. All of whom, like the papayas, like the cocos, and bananas, starfruit and even pomegranates, have come our way through friends and neighbors, bird droppings, or kitchen sinks. La Finca Caribe is not a farm, we’re a funky old guesthouse and a odd assortment of little houses, scattered across a south-facing hillside. But we’ve somehow gathered lots of growing goodies to share, and happy guests to enjoy them with.

By accident? Some folks say there are no accidents. My mom used to say, “we’re all accidents.” Who knows?…And who knows where that lizard went? I gotta go do laundry.

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