Tag Archives: environment

The Miracle of Baby Turtles

The Miracle of Baby Turtles

Ron and I had the most amazing experience the other week! I mentioned to our dear friend, Gabriela, that we had never witnessed the release of baby turtles here in Baja. She cleared her calendar and took us out to San Cristobal Ranch in the late afternoon to ensure that situation was remedied and that we had a hands-on education as to the work they are doing on their property.

Her husband, Rene, owns the land and is the President of a non-profit organization called Asupmatoma, which started their environmental protection back in the early 1990’s. The organization was formalized as a marine turtle center in 1995 and they focus their efforts on protection and conservation of marine turtles.

In addition to the protection and conservation aspects of the work that Asupmatoma is doing, their vision is to promote and increase the active participation and technical training for the local and foreign communities. They have one full-time biologist on staff, and dedicated volunteers come to work on the project from Mexico and far beyond.

Meet the biologist for the project, Fernando.

The Sea of Cortez and Baja California are home to five species of sea turtles (there are only eight in the world!): Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Leatherback, Green and Olive Ridley – all of which are endangered. It is believed that each mother turtle returns to lay her eggs on the same beach where, at least a decade before, she was born. The males, on the contrary, never set foot on land again and live their entire lives in the ocean.

Under the cover of night, the females leave the sea and search for a place on the beach where they were born (an absolute miracle they are able to find their birthplace!) to lay their eggs. With their powerful fins, they dig holes in the sand and make a nest into which they lay up to 150 eggs, one by one. Once the eggs are deposited, the turtles cover their nests with sand, erasing their trace, and return to the sea.

The team at Asupmatoma patrol the miles of beach to spot the mothers or find their tracks to the nests where they lay their eggs. The eggs are moved to incubation areas to protect them from man, predatory animals, and natural phenomena (Rene and Gabriela recounted moving the incubation nests during one hurricane to protect the turtle eggs!). Each new nest is carefully marked to show the species, when the eggs were laid, how many eggs were moved, etc. which makes it almost appear like a little cemetery and not a birthplace.

After 45 days or so, depending on the species, the baby turtles begin their difficult struggle for life. Still in the nest, buried a foot to two feet under the surface of the sand, they emerge from their shells one by one. Then, they crawl to the surface and begin their trek to the sea to begin the next phase of their lives.

We got to be part of the “cleaning” of the nests the day we visited. The vast majority of the babies made their way to the surface and had been released earlier in the day, but some did not. Our job was to carefully dig out the nests and find any babies that were still alive, and clean out the broken eggs and dead turtles that didn’t make it. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to find a baby and feel it wiggling in your hand! With a “Hi guy, welcome to the world!”, I found fifteen in my nest and Ron found three.

Because these little fellows hadn’t crawled up to the surface themselves, it was important to let them move around in the plastic container we put them in to get them strong and to “imprint” them as to their surroundings so the females could find their way back to lay their eggs in a decade or so (amazing!).

After a half-hour or so, we took the babies we’d found to the shore and released them so that they could hurry to the sea to begin their new life.

It’s a miracle that they’ve made it this far, but even more incredible to realize that of one thousand baby turtles, probabilities predict that only one will reach adulthood. Good luck and God speed, little ones! You are truly a miracle and we feel honored to have witnessed a small part of it.

To learn more about Asupmatoma, how you can participate or to donate to the important work they are doing, please contact [email protected] or visit their website at www.asupmatoma.org/en/.

An Exceptional Evening at Jamison Farm

An Exceptional Evening at Jamison Farm

Ron and I have spoken of viewing some of the properties designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for several years. In late July of this year, Ron read an article in the New York Times that set the wheels in motion, literally, for us to do that and put a plan in place.

In 1991, Frank Lloyd Wright was recognized by the American Institute of Architects as “the greatest American architect of all time.” He believed in “designing structures that were in harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he called organic architecture.”

As we always take a different route back to Cabo San Lucas, we decided to make a trip through Frank Lloyd Wright country and visit some of the places we read about in the article. Ron and I both love lamb and looked on the internet to find out more about Jamison Farm, located near Latrobe, Pennsylvania (home of the late, great Arnold Palmer), that the article spoke very highly of. It turned out that a Harvest Dinner was planned for October 22nd, was limited to 18 people, and promised lessons, recipes, stories and dinner. We immediately booked our seats at the table.

John and Sukey Jamison's Farmhouse

John and Sukey Jamison’s Farmhouse

We took our fine bottle of Duoro (the event was BYOW) and made our way from Latrobe to Jamison Farm (thank goodness for GPS!). We were among the first guests to arrive and we were delighted to meet an eclectic group of diners, most of whom were from the area or at least from somewhere in the state of Pennsylvania.

The 210-acre Jamison Farm is owned by John and Sukey Jamison, who have lived here since the 1960’s, and have been raising free range lamb and developing their reputation for purveying America’s best since that time. Their lamb is purely grass fed and free of hormones, antibiotics, herbicides and pesticides. The local geography, selection of natural grasses, rotational grazing, and annual rainfall (approximately 50 inches) provide meat that tastes like the pastures the lambs graze on.

The Black Sheep in the Jamison's Flock

The Black Sheep in the Jamison’s Flock

It had been a particularly cold and rainy day, so walking into the Jamison farm house with fires burning in various rooms made us all feel warm and welcome. John is the story teller and Sukey is the chef – a great partnership that reflected both personalities and complementary talents.

The Jamison’s sitting room is filled with signed cookbooks from some of the world’s most wellknown chefs and of other famous people who have either visited the Farm or dined on their delicious lamb. John and Sukey used to trade lamb for signed cookbooks with Julia Child (John played a voice mail message Julia left on their phone years ago) and have supplied lamb and developed friendships with many of the most prominent and important chefs in America: Palladin, Boulud, Pépin, Ripert (Ron plays tennis with Eric’s wife, Sandra, in the Hamptons – she’s vivacious and lovely!), Keller, and so many more.

Assortment of Appetizers

Assortment of Appetizers

Our evening began with a lovely selection of appetizers: assorted cheeses, lamb sausage (with spinach and feta cheese) and lamb paté. We joined John in the sitting room and listened to their Farm’s history and of some of their colorful stories collected over time. The farm manager demonstrated how to prepare cuts from the hind leg of a lamb, resulting in less than 30% waste, including the thigh bone.

Demonstration of carving cuts from an upper leg of lamb

Demonstration of carving cuts from an upper leg of lamb

We were called to dinner and our group was split between two tables in the dining room. We began with an outstanding Lamb Barley Soup – a perfect start to the evening’s meal. The soup was rich with tomatoes, vegetables and the secret ingredient which was lamb stock. On such a cold evening, it was comfort food at its finest.

Lamb Barley Soup

Lamb Barley Soup

Our next course was a Mixed Greens Salad (with homemade Merguez Sausage and tossed with a Mustard Vinaigrette).

Mixed Greens with Merguez Sausage

Mixed Greens with Merguez Sausage

Our main course followed and we were served Braised Lamb Shoulder, Lamb Shank, Roasted Lamb Chop, Herb Cherry Tomatoes over Balsamic Onions, and Smashed Herb Potatoes.

Our Main Course - Lamb Three Ways

Our Main Course – Lamb Three Ways

During and between courses, we enjoyed more stories from John and conversation with our dinner companions and new friends.

Dessert, although we were almost too full by this point to enjoy it, was a light and delicious Mixed Apple Crisp with Chantilly Crème and served with a piece of their Specialty Brownie.

Our Dessert

Our Dessert

Although we didn’t partake of a cooking class (which we thought we were taking, but got a carving demonstration instead), we enjoyed a stellar evening of brilliantly cooked lamb dishes, prepared simply to fully appreciate the flavor of the meat itself. Sukey is a very talented cook who hand-prepared every dish in their charming farm kitchen. Everything we were served was absolutely delicious! We loved listening to John’s stories and hope that he finishes the book he has started writing (both John and Sukey were English majors) and record the podcasts (a new concept that we introduced to John as he is such a great storyteller) of the many tales they have to tell.

The road less traveled is always the best for us and we’re so glad that we planned our drive through the rolling foothills of Pennsylvania and experience the extraordinary flavor of the lambs that are cared for and graze on Jamison Farm.