Sunday, December 6, 2015

At Rancho San Benito

A spotlight of evening sun breaks through the gloom, minutes before sunset

In May I mentioned that I'd agreed to buy a parcel of old ranch land outside of Mérida. The transaction was completed in June.

Rancho San Benito has not had cattle grazing on it for close to fifteen years. In the tropical Yucatán climate, the result is that what once was open pasture now has trees on it whose trunks reach the thickness of a human leg. Large swathes of land are inaccessible due to dense thorny brush. Basically, although in the early stages of succession, the land has reverted to a form of jungle. A few game trails are passable if one is willing to swing a machete, and it's possible to walk around the limits of the place since the owners kept most of the lot lines clear. The back section, more than half of the property, although used as a wood lot has not been cleared in a very long time, if ever. Trees there are larger and the understory less dense but it's still not an easy place to move through.

Most of the progress I've made so far on the ranch has been in planning. Even in passable areas, the rocks and thorny growth do not allow for casual strolling. In order to learn more exactly what I'm dealing with in the area where I hope to build a dwelling, I've had some help clearing brush. This work continues, but slowly. I enjoy having people to work with, and often the work is lighter and goes more quickly with pleasant company. But I enjoy the quiet and think time provided by days spent working alone.


Working by myself allows me to hear and see more, like a small flock of wild turkeys that rose startlingly one morning out of the brush and flew low-to-the-ground to hide themselves out of my sight. Where they had just been, I found these feathers. On a daily basis I see quail, chachalacas, orioles, green jays, vultures and a variety of small songbirds. I've listed about 25 bird species so far, and have seen many more that I have yet to identify. Birds are my constant companions when I am out there alone. Other inhabitants include various small mammals, snakes, armadillos and a large variety of colorful lizards.


Working solo and quietly also means that I am more likely to see the deer that several villagers have told me are plentiful on the land. For some reason I haven't yet seen them, but as I go about my business it's only a matter of time until I do.

Days spent working alone at the ranch may be less productive in the sense of concrete accomplishment, but they give me a lot more information about the environment in which eventually I will live. And I enjoy having time just to enjoy the quiet and solitude there. I take breaks and just wander, or open the thermos on the tailgate of the truck and sit there enjoying the silence and a cup of hot coffee or icy lemonade.

This project is so large that it will never be done. There is no need to rush. The process is the project.


Text and images copyright 2015 by Marc Olson


14 comments:

  1. Unlike your past property purchases and sales of city houses to generate annual income for living expenses, this lovely acreage adjoining a small Maya village gives you all the time that you shall have remaining in this world to know her. Together you will learn from one another and enjoy each other. Water she has collected for you will now cool and refresh and nourish you and other life forms pumped by the wind. You have been preparing for this moment all your life, Marc. It would be foolish to rush. You will indeed never be done until you are finally one with her. Buen viaje amigo.

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    1. Yes. Paul, unlike other houses I have had, I believe I will make this place a lasting home. It definitely has the potential to be a rest-of-my-life project. It's not a bad place at all for that.

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  2. Your last sentence says it all. It's wonderful that you understand the reality. So many people would not..........

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    1. Well the place is a bit overwhelming. An A-type personality with lots of plans here would be stressed out and overworked. I plan to take it easy and enjoy the little accomplishments along the way, without planning terrible far in advance. I think things will go more smoothly that way.

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  3. It sounds like paradise. Except for the snakes.

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    1. It's very nice. There are snakes, and we've seen one, but I think they avoid areas where there is activity. I will be careful always, and hopefully we won't see the snakes very often.

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  4. Lucky guy, having a ongoing project keeps one going. Enjoy.

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    1. That's sort of the idea. And although I like the city, it's nice to have a space where you don't have to see and hear the neighbors.

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  5. How large is your parcel? It sounds like a great retreat.

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    1. I've got some acreage. As I mentioned in my reply to Tancho, it's large enough that I don't have to see or hear anyone until I choose to head to the pueblo or the city, and that's just want I wanted. I will keep my place in Merida but likely will be out here a lot of the time.

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  6. Land grows over fast here in Ohio as well. The first step is to bushwhack a road through that you can get a tractor down. I had a job in high school clearing an overgrown quarry site into a campground . My work buddy and I had two 20 inch chainsaws and a Ford 3000 with a 6 foot brush hog attachment. We sawed off the big stuff and road down the rest. We cleared off a few hundred campsites and five or six miles of road that summer of 1973. Swimming in the quarry was just extra cheese. Enjoy your adventure.

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    1. Norm, there was an old access road that was easy to clear out by hand (no big trees), and it goes in to the existing corral, well and house. I don't plan to use much mechanized equipment beyond the chainsaw I've got. This won't be a commercial operation and besides, farm labor here is not very expensive. I like being able to give employment to some of the local families.

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