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A New House!

We've received several emails and phone calls from people (thanks, it is so much fun to hear from you!) wondering now where exactly we were living and what it looks like. So next follows the complete story.

A good 4-5 months ago we met a lady at church and also at a volunteering project we were doing high up on volcano Acotenango (the one right next to the exploding one). Her name is Flory, and she had a piece of land with a little house where she was living on. However, there was so much land that she was not using most of it, and she was so nice to let us use it for a little vegetable garden. However, there was a lot to be done before the garden was there... (picture right below: that's me!)



The land was pretty overgrown as you can see in the two pictures above. So in order to have our little organic vegetable garden we wanted, a lot of work had to be done... Luckily Will, Annette's brother, came down for a little visit so he could help with some serious manpower. We borrowed a super sized weedwacker (with blades instead of the plastic thread the little ones use) and started the task. 


Also, there was lots of banana trees in the way. They did not produce very good bananas, and Flory preferred them not to be around any longer. How fun! In the picture on the right above, you can see Nathan trying to chop down a tree. (You can also watch real action by clicking on this link: BananaHackerMovie.(<1mb)) All of this is done with a machete, of course. A machete is really a Guatemalan multi-tool: you use it to chop down trees, to sharpen the blades of the weedwacker, to cut grass, and much more. It is also a very common sight to see somebody walking over street with a machete on their sides. Try to get that approved by your local police!

There certainly was some fun side to chopping and hacking: the hackings had to be taken care of. And as you know Guatemala with all its enforced rules and regulations, there is absolutely nothing against starting a fire at any moment of any day. Dry season or not. And my little pyromaniac husband has no trouble starting a small fire, as you can see below.


But, after a lot of hard work (the property features a type of grass that has roots 5-8 inches deep and will regrow if even a little piece of root left in the ground) we managed to start something like a vegetable garden and harvest our first radishes.


I'm not going to show you a current picture of our veggie garden, as we realized soon after rainy season was over that there was no adequate water supply to the garden, and veggies did not quite grow as expected. For instance, we yielded two heads of lettuce after seeding about 12 sq ft. We're about to redo the garden, Nathan installed a water pipe towards the garden and we're looking forward to a fresh start.

But now the house. Our new house. We've been here for a little over 3 weeks now and we love it. As you now know, it is located on a nice, getting nicer every day, big property. 


Below you can see the view from the house from where Nathan is standing in the picture above. 


The house itself is not too big, featuring a kitchen (that you saw on last update), a hallway, bedroom/living room and a very big bathroom.  Below you see the bedroom/living room.


Also, we've explained you last time about our crowd of animals. We've made some additions to that. Our first wish was a watch dog, so we went to an animal shelter and picked out a nice dog. Her name is Tzara, five months old and a very pretty puppy. Race? You determine that. Her mom apparently was a Rottweiler, her dad something else. She looks nothing like the Rottweiler... All her life she'd been at the shelter, so moving away turned out to be quite a traumatic experience. When we let her loose on our fully enclosed property, she looked over her shoulder once and then disappeared. For two days.


We heard her howling a night, we hallucinated to hear her move, but could not find her. The fact that she was hiding out in part of the property that was only accessible with help of machetes did not make her more comfortable... Finally we found her, hiding out in a corner. We brought her to the house, and little by little she started to socialize with us. Or: she slowly turned into a real dog. She's also learning now to co-exist in peace with the other animals around, especially the little chicks we just got. 


She still has to learn a lot, for example that if a volcano close by explodes it is not a reason to bark all night long. 

Some of you might have seen it in the news: Fuego, the active volcano close by Antigua had a really active day a week ago. It made it all the way to Holland in the news... The first picture is the one we took (from our backyard!!), the second the one my mom send me from a Dutch newspaper clipping.


As you can tell, we're never bored here, there's always something to fix or create. Nathan took the task upon him to build every single animal some kind of home or play station. The cats were the luckiest. The received a complete jungle station on top of the squash nursery: now they have scratch pole, a little house with some of Flory's old clothes in it, a sunning ledge, a shadow ridge and a covered feeding station so "their water doesn't get warm". Lucky cats. They love it, too. As soon as Nathan had installed their new house, one of them got in and did not leave for about 2 days.


The dog received her own dog villa, she's still a little reluctant about using it, but learning fast. The chickens just got two new nest boxes and several roosts installed. The chicks are waiting to be big enough to not use their lamp anymore so they can start using their new house. The duck is the only one that did not receive a upgrade to her home, but did recently get a little pond installed, just for her.


Lest me to say goodbye for now. I just wanted to share with you Nathan's adventure over Christmas: a week and a half of growing a beard resulted in a very wise looking fellow. He calls it his "thinking beard". And just now I'm finishing up this update, we got the opportunity to take a fun fellowship picture with some animals. Don't I just look like a natural farmer?


Lots of love from Guatemala,

Annette and Nathan

P.S.: Our new address is a P.O. Box. Don't send anything unless it's certified, there's too many rumors going around that the mail other wise won't make it. Here's the address:

Nathan and Annette Burke
Apartado Postal, no. 129
El Correo, Antigua
Guatemala, Central America

Phone number: (+502) 832 8433.
Cell phone: (+502) 392 4523

 From the States the complete home phone number would be: