Tag Archives: gardening

Fooling God

plants
Saturday morning on the veranda

THIS SATURDAY is somewhat different than most, so I thought I’d gossip with you about it.

Normally, Saturdays are identical. My child bride is in her private kitchen out by the property wall, preparing her pastries for the afternoon sale on the big plaza downtown.

But not today.  She’s going to church this morning.

But first, here’s what I’m doing, and it’s not much different than what I do every Saturday morning. I make rounds under the cursed peach tree scooping up fallen peaches to toss out.

Then I sweep the veranda. I hear the shower running in the bathroom, and I hear a lively Mexican tune blaring from the backstreet neighbors. I also hear the electric pump that’s sending water from the underground cistern to the tank atop the roof. And I hear birds. Lots of stuff to listen to.

Soon I’ll be hearing the lawnmower and weedeater because Abel the Deadpan Yardman arrives later to trim the grass.

The sky is blue. The air is crisp. The lawn is wet because it rained quite a spell last night, making sweet sounds.

Now here’s why she’s going to church. It’s to fool God.

Relatives often ask us to be godparents to the endless array of babies they birth because we look like the best deal going in the family. Problem is that our marriage was only a civil one, not a religious one. A judge connected us, and that’s not good enough to be godparents. I suppose we’re seen as living in sin.

There has been a recent spate of new babies among the bunny-breeding kin, so we received at least two new invites to godparenting. I pass. But my child bride really wants to. There’s nothing she loves more than babies.

This morning, she’s pretending to be single to get the proper paperwork, so she can be a godmother without me tagging along. The proper paperwork requires a three-hour instruction from a priest. She’s doing that in a church downtown.

I hope she remembers to remove her wedding ring.

This amuses me while I sweep the veranda and wait for Abel to cut the grass that I’ve already liberated of fallen, rotting peaches.

It’s a lovely morning.

Damnable fruit

Green peaches muscling up. This is just one of many sagging branches.

MY CHILD BRIDE and I agree on lots of stuff, but the damnable fruit trees are not in that category.

She loves them. Were I living here solo I would uproot them all. Why? I’m not much of a fruit eater, and these trees, which were here when we purchased the property, toss their wares on the grass en masse, and there they rot.

And who has to clean it up? It ain’t her.

The peach tree, first photo, is unpredictable. Sometimes its bounty is beyond belief. Other years it does very little. Alas, this year is one of the bountifuls.

Pears, not quite so abundant but bigger. And the tree is very tall.

And then there is the pear, the second photo. Its output is always the same, too bountiful for my tastes, but certainly less than the peach. By the way, I’m a Georgia-born boy, and I know peaches. These Mexican peaches are sorry versions.

Throughout the summer, every day I go out and scoop up fruit from the grass, most of which have been pecked by birds or gnawed by God knows what beasts roam by night.

It is not an enviable chore.

I add this last photo, the red-hot pokers, because I love them, and I want to end on a positive note. They offer beauty instead of bother, and that’s what you want in life, especially as you age.

And it’s also why I have a Mexican child bride.

Beauty, not bother. Except for “her” fruit trees.

Red hot pokers. Pretty and peaceful. A summer blessing.

My first hummer

In memory of Jack Brock.

FOR A FEW years, since I purchased my Canon, whenever I sat on the Jesus Patio to read my Kindle, I always toted the camera and rested it on the glass-top table.

One might wonder, Why does he do that? The answer is this: I wanted a photo of a hummer. Though the little buggers are commonplace in the Hacienda yard, photographing one has proved impossible. Till yesterday, that is.

The midday was overcast. Perhaps that explains my little friend’s relative lack of shimmering color, something often seen in hummer photos. Or maybe he’s a she and, like many birds, perhaps the hummer ladies are a bit drabber.

He (or she) is puffed up a bit too, a nippy afternoon.

No matter. Like Hemingway kneeling beside an African rhino, high-powered rifle aimed skyward, I have shot my prey. There will be no more safaris. I will read my books in peace.

Life goes on.

The cursed grass

Friday, before Saturday’s grass cutting by Abel the Deadpan Yardman.

IF IT’S NOT raining, I might sit around noon on a web chair by the glass-top table, shaded by the big, brown umbrella, feet atop another chair, for no better reason than pleasure.

I did that on Friday past.

I usually bring my Kindle and camera too in case a hummingbird sits a spell atop a nearby bloom. I’ve been hunting a shot, but when the hummers spot the camera, they zip away. When I don’t have the camera, they’ll come stare in my face.

The top shot was taken Friday when the yard needed a mow. The bottom two shots were taken yesterday after a mow.

I’ve had people ask me, “What’s up with the lawn? It doesn’t look like Mexico.” Well, the grass was mostly here when we bought the double lot. There’s wasn’t much else, but there was plenty of grass, an endless, freaking headache.

I’ve been telling myself for years that I’m uprooting all of it, or most of it, and laying down concrete and rock, but I never do it. Two reasons: the cost and the (temporary) mess.

But I feel steel in my spine. I’m more determined. Alas, the rainy season started last month, so the work cannot begin till November at the earliest, giving me months to change my mind.

But I’m not going to change my mind!

I’ve even worked out a plan. Do it gradually.

When the rains end, we’ll do most of the section in the photo at the very bottom, empedrado* only up to the Jesus Patio. Beyond the Jesus Patio — that’s the Jesus Patio where you see chairs and a table — a larger and far more elegant patio will be dreamed up to eliminate all of the grass in that area. Next year.

The yard is too large to be included in one photo. From the upstairs terraza, I can see more of it but not all, even from up there. It’s absurdly big. There is no backyard because the house is built against a corner of the double lot.

If I had been smarter, I would have built our house on half the space, facing the main drag, and another, a rental, facing the back street. There are two entries. But I was not smart.

I was a dumb Gringo in over his head.

But at least, gradually, I am now determined to resolve this grass curse.** Pray the steel stays in my spine till November.

I want to sit on the (much enlarged) Jesus Patio, which will need a new name, and gaze upon stone and cement, less grass.

Like the Reverend King: I have a dream.

This large semicircle is the only grass I want to keep. About a third of it all.
This is the first grass that will go. It continues way off to the left.

* A surface of concrete and stone, very common in Mexico. The sidewalk is empedrado.

** A curse due to its lunatic growth during the five-month rainy season. You can never turn your back. You surely cannot travel anywhere more than a week.

(Note: Another grass section is to the right of the middle photo. It’s sizable but the smallest of the three sections. It’s where sit the monster bougainvillea and the towering nopal tree. It will be filled with stone and cement too, but not this year. The bougainvillea and nopal will stay in place.

Golden touch

A few days back. Lots of dangling flower pods.
Golden Datura! Shot on Saturday in a light rain, which you might see.

SCANT GRINGOS live in my hardscrabble neighborhood on the outskirts of town. Plenty — too many — live in other barrios, but few within shouting distance of the Hacienda.

Almost since we built our home in 2002-03, there have been three Gringo residences in our ´hood. There were three back then, and there remain three today.

The other two have seen turnover. Even before we built the Hacienda, there was an old American woman living about four blocks away. She was Judith Deim, an artist of some renown and reportedly an ex-lover of John Steinbeck.

During a recent stop in the Gringo-infested town of San Miguel de Allende, we spotted Deim’s work in a fancy gallery there.

Not really to my taste.

She was 92 when we moved into the Hacienda, and she died three years later, old as the proverbial hills.

Her home became the property of relatives who sometimes were there, sometimes not, I think, but last year a Gringa who’s lived hereabouts a number of years bought Deim’s home and is remodeling it. She gave us a tour a couple of weeks ago.

It was the first time I’d been in the place. Though Deim and I occasionally sat near one another at my sister-in-law’s downtown coffee house on the main plaza, we never exchanged a word. I doubt she knew I was her neighbor.

She was ancient, eccentric and wore no eyeglasses. I, on the other hand, was far less ancient, eccentric and I did sport specs.

The other Gringo house in the neighborhood was constructed not long after we moved into the Hacienda. It is about three blocks away, and the owner was a gay book-seller who came from somewhere in New England.

He was in his 50s, quite friendly and dissipated-looking. I liked him. Unlike most who move here, he lacked independent income, so he tried to scrounge a living by selling books he bought down from above the Rio Bravo. It did not work.

He sold his place to a Gringo family, and moved back to the United States. He died a couple of years later, a heart attack.

The new Gringos were a family who published children’s books, something you can do long-distance. They significantly remodeled their place, and now it’s spectacular.

The couple came with an adopted son in his early 20s. The young man was colossally ill-behaved, and would ride a small bike around the local plaza ogling teen girls. His behavior, it appears, eventually got him into serious trouble.

So the family hightailed it to Uruguay.

Soon after, the now elegant home was purchased by more Gringos, an elderly retired couple. They’ve been here a number of years, and everything seems to be going well for them.

What has this to do with Golden Datura in the photos?

The first Gringo, the bookseller, gave me a cutting from his lawn, and my two datura trees are the result. Every winter, I whack the plants back to the trunk nubs, and every summer they resurrect with a vengeance of green and gold.

The one shown is outside our bedroom window. In summer the aroma of datura sails into the bedroom, and we can hear bumblebees buzzing the blooms.

The top photos were taken this week. The video below was shot way back in 2011.

Separate summers

Datura outside our bedroom window yesterday. There’s also aloe vera.

MY FATHER DIED a quarter century ago when he was just three years older than I am right now.

He was a sad man, but he loved summer. He worked evenings, which gave him days free to labor in the yard where we lived in Northern Florida in a ranch house.

He loved the Atlantic beach, sand and saltwater, and he loved tending the yard. Neither interfered with his drinking, however. Heat stirs well with highballs.

I don’t drink — well, not anymore — and maybe that’s why I don’t like gardening, and I don’t live near the beach though we can get there in three hours down the autopista.

And I loathe heat, the lack of which makes my mountaintop home wonderful in summertime. But things really grow here, much better than they did in my father’s yard.

Gotta be the latitude.

Every winter I blaze through the yard like a machete-wielding madman even though I actually use a small saw and branch trimmer. The golden datura is slashed back to basics, leaving the trunk and some nubs. It’s soft wood.

It booms back in June once it feels a touch of rain.

My father had a pink-flowered mimosa of similar size in our Florida yard. It was the only thing of any height. The rest were pansies, petunias, such stuff, all planted in rows.

Here I have a Willy-Nilly Zone where things grow, hemmed in by rock and concrete, in any direction they desire.

And for things of size, there’s monster bougainvillea, the towering nopal, a gigantic fan palm.

I was pressed, as a boy, into yard-mowing duties, and I received a small sum. I forget how much. And I once cut the Hacienda lawn too, years ago, but not anymore.

That’s why the Goddess invented pesos for me to pay Abel the Deadpan Yardman.

About a decade back, after I moved to Mexico, I drove a rented car slowly by the Florida house. The mimosa was gone. Everything was bleak. The grass was spotty due to cars being parked on it, just like a rack of rednecks would do.

There were no flowers at all. Nothing.

In the 1950s, the area was the middle class moving up. Now it’s the working class barely holding on.

Summers separated by half a century of time.

The first yank

My trusty machine, red like the house.

THE RAINY SEASON arrived this week with a splash!

Three days ago I was enjoying a nice café Americano negro at a sidewalk table downtown when the skies opened with a vengeance.

In short order, the street vanished, and a lake took its place. Passing cars pushed waves onto the sidewalk, so I retreated closer to the wall with my chair and table.

The temperatures have dropped. The dust is washed into the gutters, down the drain pipes and into the lake.

And now my grass is greening. Soon it will need mowing and edging. Yesterday I pulled the mower from under a table on the Garden Patio and wiped it off with paper towels.

I poured fresh gas into the tank. I primed the carb (three times), and I yanked on the rope. Roar! The first yank!

Craftsman makes good stuff.

That leaves the weedeater, which I bought just last year, a Stihl, which is also a good item, but all weedeaters are a bitch to crank. The Stihl is just a little less so. But it has a rather complicated process you must observe to start it.

And being along in years, my arm is not what it once was. If the Stihl does not crank  quickly, I’m out of the game. I have not tried to start it yet. I am procrastinating.

Stihl weedeater, better than most.

While I let Abel the Deadpan Yardman mow the grass with the Craftsman, I am hesitant to put the Stihl in his mitts. The last time I let a local use a weedeater, it ended up in tatters.

Mexicans tend not to take care of things owned by other people. It’s a cultural trait and not one of their better ones. But I may be forced to hand it over to him.

Happy cacti.

After shooting the mower and Stihl, I photographed these cacti. I’m a cactus man. I planted them in Houston, but they never did squat.

Here, however, they’re right at home. I planted these cacti when they were small. The ones at the far end are  now taller than I am.

So summer and its accompanying rains are here. We love it when that happens after the stuffy, dry, dusty spring. But by soggy September we’ll be praying for an end to it.

The orchid peach

AND ONWARD we slog through the overly warm afternoons and evenings of May.

Praying for rain.

But there are fun distractions. One is the orchid peach. It’s my own invention.

Here’s the recipe: Take one peach tree. Any tree will do, but I use peach. It’s out there.

Tie orchid bases to the peach tree. That’s Step Two. Patience is Step Three. Most of the year, they just hang there, but in Springtime they bloom.

These orchids grow wild in the area, attaching themselves to trees — they’re parasites — and in Springtime, vendors walk the streets and stand beside highways, selling them.

I try to purchase at least one a year.

They can grow high, making it difficult to grab them. Once, a couple of years ago, a tall part of a tree on our main plaza broke off and thundered to the sidewalk. Nobody was hurt.

But the hunk of tree lying on the sidewalk was chockablock with blooming orchids. People went at them like a pack of wolves. I happened by after most of the orchids were plucked.

Darn!

This year I purchased yellow, a first. All the previous orchids on my peach tree had been pink. You like a little variety in your orchids, color-wise.

The blooms in the photo look a little weary. That’s because they first erupted weeks ago, and they’re just about pooped out for this season. You can see my new yellow one.

The orchid peach. My own invention.

Patent Pending. Or not.