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Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Garden Gate!

My vegetable garden (mi huerto)
It may seem strange to you up North in the midst of winter to hear me talk about gardening but for us down here in South America, in Uruguay we are in the throngs of summer. Tomatoes and watermelon are a foot. This led me to think about Expats and Gardens.

I've noticed that expats usually follow, some similar stages of progression upon moving to Uruguay or any foreign country for that matter. It involves 3 steps.

Step one is deciding on where to live. Some travel around the country briefly, this is sometimes done on prior visits. A city, coastal area or the campo/rural place is then chosen.

Step two is that, once they have decided on the area they want to live in, the exciting hunt for real-estate in their chosen city, town or field begins.

Step three is hiring all kinds of workers to improve their newly purchased dwelling. Some enlarge their dwellings, others gut them. Nobody is ever 100% satisfied with them!

Once these 3 steps have been accomplished they need to start a garden, particularly a vegetable garden. Even people who have never kept a garden before, seem to have this compelling need to start one, upon moving here. Only then, do they feel truly settled! All of this, as a matter of course, is done during the first year of their arrival.

I followed these same phases as well but unlike all the other expats here, I never finished my garden in "my first year" here. I just petered out in my efforts. My vegetable garden back in Seattle, Washington, USA was very, very nice, at least I thought so! It had raised vegetable beds and gravel walkways in between and I wanted to do the same thing here. My garden back in Seattle was full of clever ideas, and speciality items.

My ex-Seattle garden. Can you guess which 4 herbs are planted under the sign!
I grew different types of lavenders in pots like English, French and Spanish lavenders. I even had a light yellow lavender, Yeah, lavender that was not lavender colored and a variegated leaf one called silver something??

More of my Seattle Garden in the USA. Collard greens in the bed and Raspberry vines.
For my garden here in Uruguay, I thought about getting older in Uruguay, so I wanted a low maintenance garden.  Since we have dogs that do, "like to dig", sometimes (Yeah, I know, out of boredom), I wanted the whole thing fenced in.

This is the entrance to my UY vegetable garden and why I needed to fence it in!
 Meanwhile other expats were already harvesting and eating their home grown garden produce like delicious tomatoes. Somebody gave me collard green seeds to get me started (Thanks John) since back in Seattle, I was well-known for my collard greens at dinner.

 Well, 3 years passed!

Cantaloupes grow well here by the beach.
Last year (year 4), I did attempt to start it up. I filled 2 beds with soil and had a great crop of bell peppers. I also tried my hand at growing melons for the first time, cantaloupes!

They were a rousing success! I got 10 full sized delicious melons from just the two companion plants that I bought in a dixie cup from the feria.

I also grew Eggplants. I read somewhere that since eggplants were heavy feeders that an interesting way to get them off to good good start was to plant them with an egg, no-less. I mean a real, raw, whole egg! Just dig your hole and put the whole egg in the bottom of it. Cover with only a little dirt and plant your eggplant on top. Fill in the rest of the hole as you would normally.

An eggplant grows well with an egg!
It must have worked because I had so many eggplants that I lost count of them. They were nicely spread out over months. With some just emerging from their flowers while others grew suitably large.

I found out that you can grow lettuce in a fairly shallow hole. I had left space for a rectangular planting spot in among all of those cement walkways. I wanted to break the space up and grow something. Well, when I went to plant something there I found out that there was a cement footer just under the surface belonging to my neighbor's wall, I guess?

I went ahead and planted the lettuce there anyway along with some basil and I had no problems in growing the lettuces, I grew both green and red varieties. I bought the starts for only 5 pesos each from the local farmer's market/feria.

I also, finally, after 4 years of living here, added a clothesline in my garden area (other expats had already done that also, in their first year).  I tried my hand at drying clothes with pure solar power, THE SUN!!. There is an art to that because depending on the weather it's not always successful (drying clothes in the rain doesn't seem to work, LOL)

Clothes and towels get stiff, scratchy and hence itchy when lined dried. To prevent that, several suggestions are to hang them up during the cooler parts of the day and to use vinegar in your rinse water when washing them (it doesn't leave an odor). Right before you hang items up, give them a good shake and rub or roll them to loosen up the fibers, then hang them up. Whew, I never knew about all of this preparation. Of course, some men like rough scratchy towels to dry off with. If you're one of them, just hang them!

My Uruguayan Huerto/Vegetable garden is enclosed with wire fence.
So now, it's been 5 years since we have been living here in Uruguay. In order to give me some motivation to keep adding to the garden this coming season,  I have installed a needed garden gate! (The title of this post!)

My garden is enclosed with wire. In all these years, I have had to lift away a panel of heavy wire to go in and out of the garden. So I hired some Hierro/iron guys to build me a gate. They are different guys then the ones who did my trash can. Those guys wanted to charge me 6800 pesos and I believe they would have  hung the gate on the existing wooden posts (logs really). I thought that price was a little high.

The phone number had nothing to do with the poster.
I looked around for someone else and saw a telephone number written on an old wooden board (Herrero means blacksmith), it was hung up on a street corner. I decided to call the painted number. I left a message. Then a man named Sergio called me back. I told him where I lived and what I wanted. An appointment was set.

When two people arrived at my house, I was pleased that they were quite professional considering their street sign, they even handed me a preprinted flyer.

These two were also a father and son firm, Nuñez is their last name.  They wanted to include the installation of new metal posts in their price and remove the old wooden ones. That got me interested and so I asked them, to also include, the cost of another fixed panel next to the new gate. That would allow me to remove more of the wire fence so that the new gate wouldn't look so tacky butting up against the old wire.

old wire fence gate. Just a panel  lifted on and off to get into the garden.
They quoted me 500 pesos more then the other guys but for that price they included my panel and the new posts! So I jumped at the chance. I went to Abitab (a bill paying place) with the workers cedula number/ID # and his phone and street address. I paid a down payment for the materials (4000 pesos). It cost me 100 pesos for the office transaction. In 2 days, they started the work. Upon completion, I paid the remaining 3300 pesos I owed them and that was that (¡Se acabó!). Their job had cost a total of 7300 pesos.

I am hoping that this new entrance gate, will inspire me to start taking care of this garden once again.

First, I will have to sweep up the walkways, then pressure wash the walls again and of course, buy more dirt, plants and finally plant an even bigger garden. Maybe, next year!

Okay, I admit it, I like garden designing more than actually gardening, you caught me!


TV said...

You know it's crazy Denise, but for the past 2 weeks it's been about 70 degrees F during the day here in Sacramento. It looks like it will be that way for the next week or so!
Thanks so much for your story and photos. It really seems like you are continuing to do well!

Anonymous said...


Let me know if you need any other seed!

Sorry, a little belatedly catching up on posts.


Seamus said...

Denise, that certainly is a beautiful garden. I wish I had so much energy.

Do they have a Ciscoe Morris in Uruguay?
(I just moved to Bremerton in Oct, 2013.) As an artist, I have to say your garden has a sort of Pac Northwest flavor to it. Just a touch. (I think that's a good thing.)

And a more serious question: With all that eggplant, what do they use for cooking oil in Uruguay. Of the main cooking oils, Olive, Canola, Peanut, and Corn oil, are all those available? But what is the most common cooking oil in Uruguay, in your opinion?

(I'm still hoping to get down there someday, but it looks like it will be at least another year.)

Denise said...

Hey Seamus,
I lived in the Seattle area for 18 years, so the Pacific Northwest vibe definitely shows in my garden!

As to cooking oils, Olive oil is plentiful virgin and otherwise also soy, corn and sunflower oil. A lot of expats are searching the markets for coconut oil.
Looking at a bottle of oil that I usually buy it is a blend of 95% sunflower oil plus 5% corn oil. Some oils are a mixture of soy and corn. I read that the way Canola is prosessed makes it

Denise said...

Hey Seamus,
I lived in the Seattle area for 18 years, so the Pacific Northwest vibe definitely shows in my garden!

As to cooking oils, Olive oil is plentiful virgin and otherwise also soy, corn and sunflower oil. A lot of expats are searching the markets for coconut oil.
Looking at a bottle of oil that I usually buy it is a blend of 95% sunflower oil plus 5% corn oil. Some oils are a mixture of soy and corn.