Tag Archives: relaxing

Plein air bathing!

A Warm Welcome.

Destination. A ranch we call Timi’s Huerta, outside of San Isidro, near La Purisima, Baja California Sur Mexico.

Date. December 10, 2013

Who’s there? La Mula Mil: (Trudi Angell, Teddi Montes and myself)

Humans are truly adaptable. I live in a condo in Canmore, Alberta Canada. My home has a shower with a powerful flow of endless hot water. The second bathroom has a deep soaker tub with more than enough shelf room for any amount of bubble bath, specialty soap, scented soaking salts, candles, incense and a glass (or two) of wine. In the downstairs of the building, next to the fitness room, is a steam room. And just a few steps outside you have your choice of not one, not two, but three, yes three, hot tubs with jets and coloured lights. Nothing says luxury quite like an array of bathing choices.
That definition changes of course, when you have been riding a mule all week, cooking over a fire, and sleeping under the stars. Each night you need to find a place to camp, somewhere with feed and water for the animals, and hopefully some flat space, not too spiny, to throw down your sleeping bag. These places aren’t marked on a map. You can surmise where might be a good choice, but really, much of the information you gather is simply from talking to local people. Often the folks in one area will recommend the next place to camp.
So this night, we ride into a yard on the outskirts of a town of about 200 people and ask for directions to our recommended camp space at “the delegado’s” (mayor’s) ranch. Luckily, it turns out that the ranch we are looking for backs onto the very property we are on right now. Today’s ride is almost over, so we smile and wave and say adiós then head off to tonight’s campemento. (campsite)
The delagado’s ranch has a place for the tents and for us to cook, but most importantly, pasture and a corral for the mules. There is no running water but they do have a well we can draw from. Life is good for all concerned.
Our guest riders of the last six days or so headed out to various points in Baja California this morning. Now it is quiet here, especially if you have learnt to tune out the 4:30 a.m. cock-a-doodle-do alarm. It will be a couple of rest days for us “long-riders”, the ones heading north for another three months or so to Tecate. But it will not be all rest, we need to do some prep for the next leg of the trip. Trudi, Teddi and I will work on our various areas of responsibility. Trudi will reorganize our kitchen and prepare an order of supplies for Olivia, (our absent La Mula Mil member) to bring up from Loreto when she rejoins us after having been away for the last week. Teddi will look after the mules, making sure they are tied out in new places in the pasture during the day, then moved into the corral and fed some hay overnight. I will catch up on the group’s trip notes, sort photographs and do any sewing or patching the group gear may need. In between, we will take a bit of a breather, maybe hitch a ride into town to pick up whatever we can to make our evening meal or if our luck runs strong, we’ll time it right and get to go to the small and only-sometimes-and-rather-randomly-open “restaurante” for supper. Tortillas and frijoles (beans) are always better when someone else makes them.
While we are enjoying taking our time getting moving, the woman from the neighbouring ranch, the one we got directions from last night, comes to join us next to the tree under which we have our kitchen. In conversation with us, she mentions that her place is a little more modern than this ranch. Hers, she states with genuine modesty, has electricity and running water. We are able to plug in our electronics to recharge and even better, she kindly offers us unknown visitors a shower. She says that whenever we are ready, just let her know and she’ll flip the breaker to run the hot water heater, then 20 minutes later, we can have bathe. In an honest-to-goodness stand up shower in a house! With running hot water! Baja California Sur is in a cold snap right now, in fact, it is long john cold, so a hot shower will be especially welcome. Of course we say yes!

Such luxury!

Look! A real shower. Not a bucket of water behind a blanket!


Somehow, I get to be the first in line! I take my little micro-fiber towel and my biodegradable, all-purpose camp suds. I follow the path between the houses, sidestep the chicken coop, cross my fingers that the barking dog really is all bark and no bite, call out “hola, buenas dias!” to the gentlemen sipping coffee under the palapa and stand there awkwardly until the lady of the house leads me inside. She points proudly to her indoor plumbing. I smile, she leaves, then I strip down quickly. The house is unheated and to add to the chill, the bathroom window is open in lieu of a fan, cool air ready to whisk away the steam of my much-anticipated shower.
I step in, crank the hot water tap all the way open and step in under a drizzle of warm water. I have to dance a little jig to get all of me wet. I shampoo my long hair, wash all of my “bits” then quickly scrub the rest of me. I rinse myself off at about the four-minute mark, just as the water moves from tepid to cool. As I sluice the water from my skin, I smile to myself thinking of the kindness of this woman, freely offering her home and her precious resources to travelers she doesn’t even know. I am touched. I am warm. And I am clean. Best. Shower. EVER.

Feed the Birds, Feed the Soul.

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Today I made a hummingbird feeder.

I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days now, so yesterday I shelled out a few pesos to google “homemade hummingbird feeders”. I got lots of websites, but they all required purchasing some special components then essentially assembling the feeder. When you live in a place that has ready access to such supplies, and when you have a bit of extra cash, it doesn’t even occur to you there are other options. But I am still recovering from the flu, so instead of continuing to ride north on the 1000 mile mule ride I am on, (La Mula Mil) I am staying at Trudi’s, my friend’s house in small town San Ignacio in Baja California Sur on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico and I am watching my pesos and my energy. And even if I wasn’t, there wouldn’t be anywhere for me to buy a “hummingbird feed tube attachment as illustrated.”. 

So, I kept looking. I knew there had to be away to make one from stuff I could find laying around. Once upon a time I could have figured the whole thing out myself, but in the busyness of life, I seemed to have shut off the creative side of my brain sometime in the last few years.

Sure enough I finally found a website. It had a hand-sketched plan for making a hummingbird feeder from found items. It did call for the use of a power drill, which I definitely didn’t have access to, but that’s ok, it was only for going through plastic, I knew I could hack that myself.

So, I rooted through a pile of bottles in the yard until I found a couple that had an indented ring near the bottom, (which will be the top really) so that it would be easier to securely hang it with string. I then found some string in a basket near the plates in the kitchen. (Isn’t that where everyone keeps their string?) I had previously stumbled across Trudi’s stash of plastic ware in the unused oven that serves as a support for the two burner propane stovetop (remember, this is small town Mexico-everything gets re-purposed here!) so I had a small clear plastic container with a tight fitting lid.

I was a bit stuck on the red required to attract hummingbirds. I didn’t have any food colouring, which shouldn’t ever be put in the nectar anyways, it’s bad for the birds. I didn’t have a red felt marker to draw designs, which is just as well as I do girly-girl drawings like flowers and hearts about as well as Charlie Brown flies a kite and is likely the real reason I didn’t become a teacher. Well, that and I didn’t go to university.

Then I remembered that I had a red plastic bag from goodness knows what purchase in what airport, but I figured I could cut it into strips with the little tiny thread scissors I have in my sewing kit.

Now all that was left to do was to come up with a drill substitute. No worries, I was working with plastic, so instead of using a keyhole spade to cut a hole in the container lid wide enough to accept the mouth of the drink bottle, I drew a circle the exact size of said mouth and used my knife to cut an X inside of it so I could work the mouth through then trim off the excess plastic. As you can see from the picture, I didn’t get it in the exact centre, so those of you who know me are already laughing at how barmy it is driving me that it is not perfectly balanced.

Now that I had the hardest part done I moved into the kitchen and heated up the awl on my pocket knife. Well, it’s not really an awl, but it is a Phillips screwdriver head, so close enough for this project. I stuck it in the flame of the propane stove then pushed it through from the top of the lid to the bottom. I wiggled it as it went to make the hole a little bigger. The awl gets really hot, you should avoid touching it with your thumb knuckle. As per usual, I learnt that the hard way, but luckily I was right next to the sink so I could stick my thumb under the cold water.

I made four holes in the container lid for the hummingbirds to sip through, that’s why I wanted the pointy bits pointing into the container so they couldn’t get caught up in them. Then I flipped the whole contraption upside down, so that I could make a hole in the drink lid for the nectar to get through to the clear container. You have to heat the awl even hotter to get through the heavy plastic of the drink lid. Make sure you are still near the sink so that when you accidentally put your finger on the awl you can quickly put it under the cold water to cool it down. Just saying… then again, you are likely not as clumsy as me and either didn’t repeat the earlier mistake or burn yourself the first time even.

Once all the melting of plastic (and burning of flesh) was done, I poured in half the nectar I made yesterday, screwed the drink lid on tight and poured the other half of the nectar in the clear container. Next was the trickiest part, flipping the bottle over so that the nectar would drip into the clear container and pressing the lid of the container on firmly so that when it is hung up it all stays together. I almost did it the other way, yep, almost picked up the container of nectar and turned it over to push it onto the feeder. Luckily I caught myself in time and avoided a “d’oh” moment and a big sugary, ant-attracting mess. I had considered putting all the nectar into the bottle then squeezing it into the container part when it was all assembled but thought that I had a pretty good chance of squeezing too hard and somehow blowing the lid off and making (say it with me!) a big, sugary, ant-attracting mess.

So, then all that was needed was to tie the hanging string around the bottle, add some red ribbons and voila! Hummingbird feeder!

I found a nail already in a beam in the palapa outside the kitchen and managed to hang it up without falling off the chair. Around the area I also added some “flowers” I made from the red bag to further increase my chances of attracting some beautiful flying jewels. 

Then I sat back and enjoyed the rest of my coffee. As I sat there, I ruminated on how much I have always enjoyed making crafty kinda things, and how little of it I have done in the last decade or so. Somehow the fun stuff in life slipped away, replaced by work stuff. Today I rediscovered that joy. Is my feeder “pretty”? No, not really, but I made it myself, it cost me an hour of time and a half cup of sugar. And it will give me hours and hours of pleasure while helping out my feathered friends.