Nine years of rain

The virgin Hacienda in 2003, virtually devoid of plant life.

Another lovely morning, nice and cool, as I like it. We were sitting on the terraza about 8:30 a.m. awash in vistas of green. It wasn’t always like that.

We started buying plants immediately after moving to the brand-new Hacienda in May of 2003. For some reason, plants love it here even though it is not a tropical atmosphere. We are high and cool in the mountains at 7,200 feet.

I have stopped buying plants permanently. I am overwhelmed. I have hired a neighbor named Abel to cut the grass weekly. Other than that, I’m just going to sit back and see what happens. I am weary of yard work.

And how it looked just this morning.

24 thoughts on “Nine years of rain”

  1. I sometimes ponder on how it would be to have a small apartment a block or two away from the plaza, one with absolutely no maintenance, no caretaker, no grass, nada.

    Then I figure out that I would have too much time on my hands to do stupid stuff. Can you imagine how the plants would grow if we were 2 or 3 thousand feet lower and warmer throughout the year? The word jungle comes to mind.


  2. I like your casa, Felipe. I have a huge place myself, big gardens, 50 or so rose bushes, lottsa lawns, swimming pool. I’d hire a gardener, but don’t like people much. I will sell next spring, moving to a smaller more remote part of the province, 2-bedroom bungalow sounds about right, somewhere near a lake. New roads to ride the bike.


    1. Ms. Mommy: We bought the vacant double lot in August 2003, four months after we got married. Actually, it was not totally vacant. There was what’s called a portal just inside the entrance gate, basically a large area with a concrete floor and a roof of clay tiles. There was also an abutting concrete barbecue pit. The previous owner, a downtown lawyer, used the space for parties and family get-togethers. And there was a brick wall with a steel gate around the entire area.

      We hired an old guy, pushing 70 at the time, an albañil, which most Spanish-English dictionaries define as a bricklayer or stonemason but they actually do most aspects of construction short of carpentry. Our guy was a real whiz with decades of experience and colossally talented. He was having trouble getting work due to his age, and he gave us a very good price.

      He brought two other excellent albañiles and a helper, and they worked 10-hour days M-F and six hours on Saturdays.

      We hired no architect, and the albañiles had no blueprints. My wife and I just gave them diagrams we made on graph paper.

      The fellows never missed a day of work in spite of albañiles having a bad reputation as drunks and being irresponsible. Nine months later, we moved in. The whole shebang, including the double lot, labor, materials, everything ended up costing us about $100,000.

      The fellows used virtually no power tools except for a small cement mixer one day while pouring the roof of the first floor and another day for the roof of the second floor. All other cement was mixed by hand right smack on the ground, which kind of disturbed me.

      The house was built almost completely with manual hand tools. The painter we hired later also did all his work by hand. He didn’t even use masking tape. And no rollers. Just brushes. He was another old coot. We still use him for detail work.

      The only major error we committed was the carpenter we hired. The wood windows are pure, leaky crap, but they look nice.


    1. Thanks, Connie. Yeah, it does look snazzy. I’ll give it that.

      About 99 percent of Gringos who build houses down here either use adobe or paint it the color of adobe. They just want that adobe look. We went in another direction. It’s brick with an added surface that is something like stucco. It has a name in Spanish, but I forget what it is at the moment. A very common building technique here, far more common than adobe.


  3. I lived in a townhome off of Buffalo Speedway in Houston. Just moved to Austin into a house with a large yard and a lot of landscaping. With the worst drought in 60 years and water restrictions, it has been A LOT of fun trying to keep everything alive.

    I think I could return to the ease of townhome living again someday. It was great in a lot of ways.


      1. Our yard is a “desert garden”.What that means is that we put little or no care into it. We have great forests of nopal out back, but beyond our wall, When the grass gets too high, our landlord comes with his “huiter” (weed eater) and cuts it. Apart from some flower beds that Sra. Cuevas planted, that’s it.

        The outside of the house needs repainting. It’s been 5 years since the last painting. Now, in the rainy season, is not the time. Maybe next March.

        Don Cuevas


  4. It does look tropical in spite of the altitude. Perhaps you just have a green thumb, or were a master gardener in a previous life.

    One thing’s for sure — it owns you. It won’t stay nice unless you work it. Gardens are like beautiful women. They require constant attention or they will get away from you.


    1. Ray: Alas, one doesn’t need a green thumb here. Everything pretty much just grows. As for it staying nice, we’re just one week shy of August, and it still looks pretty good ignored. Do have to cut the lawn though, which I hire out. I edge with the weedeater.


  5. Like you, I have mixed feelings about gardens. For the last two months, I have barely left my little jungle. Other than to play with the crocodiles.

    If I had to maintain the garden, I am not so certain I would think so kindly of it. My landlady has a gardener who comes in several times a week to wander about with a hose. Then another guy shows up a couple times each year armed with lopping devices.

    It all works out. And it is one reason I sit here sweltering in the heat. It makes me feel at peace.


    1. Steve: Lopping devices and hoses. That pretty much covers everything. But in the summer here, the last thing you need is a hose. Just lopping devices.

      Now leave those crocs in peace!


  6. Great place — we do live in the tropics about 4000′ lower over here in Veracruz. Shove a broom handle in the ground — it will sprout in a few days. We have an excellent Stihl weed eater — hire a local hombre once a month or so to cut things back — it works.


    1. Señor Calypso: I have a Weedeater-brand weed eater, and I do the edging myself. Actually, I kind of like it. Puts an orderly look to it all. And I have a local hombre, Abel, who’ll be coming once a week to cut the grass. If I waited a month to cut the grass, I would not be able to get in the front door. As for the other stuff, I’m going the new, trendy meadow route.


  7. Is the word you’re looking for enjarrar? That’s what the do when they cover the bricks/blocks.

    Why were you disturbed by their mixing cement on the ground? Lower quality? Too much work? My husband learned to be an “albañil” in the states, where there is a tool for everything. When we returned to Mexico, he made a house for a cousin, but using few tools. It was too much work, though he loved it. Now, he teaches English.


    1. Lor: The word is aplanado, my wife just informed me. Enjarrar looks like a verb, but it’s not in my Spanish dictionary. The same dictionary tells me that the verb form of aplanado, aplanar, means to level or flatten.

      I didn’t want them to mix the cement on the ground because they were doing it directly outside the front door. I figured it would cause a soil problem later, but it didn’t because we put a sidewalk over it.

      Teaching English is easier than tossing bricks, I imagine.


  8. Nine years of seasonal rains to assist your plantings has matured the looks of the grounds and house well. A look of permanence and belonging to the land. Most fitting for Don Felipe and the Lady Z!
    I just had a chuckle remembering your stories about the war with the banana trees a couple years back!


    1. Parker: I have pretty much surrendered to the banana trees. There are three stands of them, and I now have them all bordered with concrete, making it quite difficult to get further out of hand. I used to keep them neat, but now I am letting them do their Tarzan thing.


  9. I am happy to see you have found a dependable grass cutter. It is too bad he does not garden as well. I recall you having trouble finding someone for quite some time. We have managed to snag a general all around handy guy for our lawn and to help Norma with the garden work as well. They are hard to find.


    1. Croft: Since the fellow only cut the lawn once so far, the jury is still out on his dependability. However, he lives just two doors down from us, so it’s pretty easy money for him, plus I overpay to inspire his dependability.


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