Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Boundary Lines

Since I returned from San Ignacio armed with property maps, we decided to take a look at our property boundaries. We hadn’t really looked at anything besides the ten or so acres that had been cleared when the property was the cat farm, and we were curious about what we were buying. One side of the property is jagged, and we thought that would be the easy side since the boundary markers are closer together. However, Selwyn and Bol know the long straight line, and that line had been cleared before the property was deserted, so that’s where we started. The property has about 250 meters of road frontage on the curve. The jagged side goes around neighbors’ yards and fields, and the straight side just runs straight back 833 meters to a feeder road, then continues for another 384 meters in a straight line on the other side of the feeder road. We started clearing the straight line from the road, with Tom manning the weed whacker, Selwyn in front blazing the trail with a machete, and me in the rear trimming away the overhead branches and vines with my very own machete. We found a post which we think is halfway on the long line, although it’s not shown on the map, and then the going got rough. The land is beautiful, and the property line will make a great trail, but it’s not easy walking when it’s grown over as much as it is. To the marker, it was a gradual climb. After the marker, it went straight up a pile of rock, then down the other side, and then up and down another slightly smaller rock knoll. It’s rough going, but it’s incredibly beautiful, and we found at least one cave entrance and a couple of trails to explore. We think we’ll eventually clear out the underbrush for a great view of the Maya Mountains from the first knoll, and put a lean to up there for camping and looking at the stars. From the midway property marker, we gave up trying to clear, and just walked the rest of the long boundary to the feeder road. We decided to leave the lot on the other side of the road and the other side of the lot line we’d been following for another morning’s clearing effort.

Ofelia and I had delayed our carrot cake baking until Tuesday night, so I threw a chicken in the oven and had dinner ready so we could eat and be cleaned up before Ofelia came at seven to bake. This chicken, by the way, actually had two feet, as well as a variety of other organs. The mystery of the one-legged chicken was solved by Sharyn, who said she noticed the same thing and asked, and was told that all the “slop” goes in one bucket, and after the chicken processors finish cleaning and processing a chicken, they just take a handful of the slop and stuff it in the cavity before packaging the chicken. They don’t take to time to make sure every chicken has its own organs, which is why we get one-legged chickens, or chickens with four gizzards and no hearts. Mystery solved.

Ofelia showed up as planned with Iris and Lucy, her aunt. They came with a bag of tamarind seeds because Tom and I didn’t know what they were, so before we started baking we had to sample tamarinds. Tamarind trees are in the mimosa family, and the seeds are in long brown pods. When you open the pods, each seed is coated with a sweet, sticky covering, which is the tamarind fruit. The fruit is tasty, sort of like a fig, and we’re told it makes great juice, although we haven’t yet tried it. That done, we had Tom fire up the generator so we could use the food processor, and we started making the carrot cake. Ofelia, Lucy, and Iris peeled carrots while I finished cleaning up dinner, and then we used the food processor to grate the carrots. The three women had never used such a big food processor, and they really appreciated how easy it was to chop nuts and grate a lot of carrots in a very short time. We also mixed up the cake batter in the food processor, and the cream cheese frosting. I have the feeling that now that they know I have it and they know what it can do, the local cooks may come up with some interesting uses for the Cuisinart.

While the cake was baking, we talked about food. Lucy commented that she had tried to make some things out of American cookbooks, but they didn’t come out because she didn’t know what some of the base ingredients were. The example she gave was minestrone, which asked for chicken stock, but never explained what chicken stock is. I explained, then laughed and whipped out a Belizean cookbook I bought in Belize on our first trip here, and went through it and showed her the recipes that I couldn’t make because I didn’t know what the ingredients were. We spent a very quick hour while the cake cooked and cooled a little leafing through cookbooks and asking each other questions. One of my questions was about the difference between corn masa and corn meal, and they laughed, because they said that the meal just comes in a bag like flour, but you have to grind the masa from real corn. They all think I’m a strange animal with my use of the Nordic Track, and Ofelia said with a smile that she’d let me know when they were going to make masa, and I could come and get my exercise grinding their corn.

The cake came out of the oven, remarkably well baked considering it was in the camper oven, although I’m sure the fact that we cooked it in my favorite $50 Longaberger baking dish helped. (Tom thinks I say things like that just to justify spending $50 on a baking pan, but I really do think it makes sheet cakes cook more evenly!) We let the cake cool a little bit, then poured on the cream cheese frosting, which is much closer to a liquid than a spread when it’s made in the tropics in a small camper where the oven has been on for about three hours. Between the cake being warm and the frosting being liquid, I think the frosting will probably soak into the cake, but we won’t find out until tomorrow evening when we’ve planned to take the cake next door and have a neighborhood dessert – and while soaked in frosting isn’t normal for a carrot cake, I’m sure it will be good!

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