Tag Archives: nopal cactus

Glimpse of sunshine

yard
The psychedelic birdbath is full of fresh, clean water.

WE’VE BEEN dreadfully wet of late. Not Houston-style, but extra wet in our own way, and it’s due to two factors.

One, it’s the rainy season, and it rains a bit every day. But, in addition, we were getting almost nonstop rain for a spell due to a hurricane out in the Pacific. Not Harvey but Lidia.

When hurricanes run amok in the Gulf or Pacific, we get extra rain sometimes, and that’s all we get, which is good.

But the sun was out this morning, so I did some yard trimmings, cutting dead stuff, picking up nopal fruit that had fallen to the grass. You need gloves to do that latter, as I discovered painfully some while back. Nasty little spines.

And I refilled the birdbath, which I had not done for days due to the rain keeping it full. However, I noticed today there were tadpoles in there, so I dumped it out, and refilled.

During the morning activities, I needed something from the downstairs closet and while in there I got in a sharing mode. I don’t think I’ve ever put a closet photo here, so …

closet
We maintain marginal order in the closet. There’s a similar closet upstairs.

The closet is across from the downstairs bathroom and next to the bedroom. You enter from the hallway. It was my idea, and it baffled my child bride at first because it’s as big as many — perhaps most — bedrooms in Mexico.

I hired a carpenter to build shelves that don’t just abut the wall but extend outwards, giving much more storage space. It’s an idea I got from the late, great Al Kinnison (R.I.P.) who had such a closet next to his kitchen. He lived downtown.

While I’ve been writing this, the clouds have grown, which may cause a problem for my morning exercise walk around our nearby plaza. I think I need to get going.

Adiós.

Reach for the sky

My soaring nopal.

I’VE LONG been a desert fan and the cacti that come with it. There is something spiritual about a desert. The same can be said about rainforests, the desert’s alter ego.

When I lived in Houston, one of my favorite road trips took me west. You didn’t have to go far before the environment turned dry, and nopal cacti appeared naturally along the highways. In spring they sprouted red flowers.

Mexicans are fond of eating nopal. I don’t share this love. Nopal is too much like okra, turning slimy when cooked.

So I just admire the appearance, and I don’t have to drive west to see nopal. I need only to step into the yard where I have about the tallest nopal I’ve ever seen.

I shot the above photo with a zoom lens. That’s just the noggin of my nopal. It soars 18 feet into the air.

I measured, more or less.

It was just two of those paddles when I planted it at least a decade ago, having no idea what I was getting into.

My second ex-wife is something called a Master Gardener. You get that title from the County Extension Service after taking an amount of training on such things.

While I am the yard chief here at the Hacienda, she was the garden honcho where we lived together in Houston.

I often encouraged her to plant bougainvillea. She never did. Perhaps it was out of pure spite. I hope not. But she did the right thing. I see that now.

Bougainvilleas are beautiful. They also sport thorns that would fill the most vicious rosebush with envy.

Our bougainvillea likely tops out at 20 feet, and even more from left to right. It is held in place by steel chains. The plant never stops growing, both upward and outward.

I water the nopal because I don’t want it to fall down. I never water the bougainvillea because I want it to calm down.

Springtime is just getting started.

My soaring bougainvillea.

 

 

The blooming rain

aloe vera

THE INTERMINABLE rain should begin winding down in about a month. It started in June, as it almost always does and should, and it’s continued daily till now and onward. It’s a blessing.

But in September, one starts to think: Enough already.

Every year the yard plants increase in size, which is not good most of the time, especially since I’ve grown weary of controlling them. Take this aloe vera, for instance. When we moved here in 2003, I snipped a twig from an aloe vera in the yard of the rental where we lived before.

I stuck that twig in the soil next to the downstairs veranda. It grew. How nice, I thought, so I yanked off some pieces and stuck one against the property wall between us and the neighbors, not the sex motel, the other way where the grumpy people live with their nasty kids.

Another piece went into the ground next to the bedroom. That’s the “twig” in this photo. Just around the corner, out of the photo, is where I planted the fourth twig. It is the smallest of the quartet. But growing.

Well, here’s what happened: The one next to the veranda had to be removed last year due to its monster size, which reminds me now of what my second ex-wife, an avid gardener, often mentioned. When you plant something in a spot, think about its eventual size.

Neglect this step, and you may be sorry in time.

The one against the property wall grows daily, but it’s still smaller than this baby in the photo. I chop off a limb or two each year in part just to show it who’s boss, that it’s my bitch, not the other way around.

In the 1990s, I planted a little aloe vera next to my house in Houston. It never did a dang thing, just sat there like a wart on a log. I also planted a nopal cactus in a whisky barrel. Never did much either, and my then-wife removed it after she kicked me out because it was unfavorable feng shui, which is not something you want to mess with, she said.

Here at the Hacienda some years back, I planted a little piece of nopal. It’s now about 18 bristling feet high. I know squat about its feng shui, but it is not something you want to mess with either. Wish I had not planted it.

But the rain will end next month, which is the introduction to our most glorious period: November, which kicks off with a long night in the cemetery with candles, marigolds and memories of dead relatives.

Early blackbirds

DSCF1770
Upstairs terraza photographed in some distant springtime.

I CALL THEM blackbirds, but they’re really just soot.

Every springtime the rural folks in these parts burn dry fields, and this produces soot like you wouldn’t believe. Some days it’s like black rain, but with “drops” the size of feathers. And these fall into the yard, drift into the downstairs terraza and, of course, the upstairs terraza.

But it’s not springtime, so I don’t know what the Devil’s going on, plus it’s not falling anywhere near the quantity that drifts down in true springtime. No matter. Here it is. Like shedding blackbirds.

This morning, before 8 a.m., I decided to sweep the upstairs terraza before going downstairs for bagels and Philly cream cheese light. The feathers were plentiful, and I disposed of them.

Speaking of blackbirds, we have real ones, lots. There are ravens and black vultures and grackles. The ravens and black vultures — that sometimes circle high above in scores — I enjoy. The grackles, no. Those big, black blokes land in the birdbath and splash all the water out. It’s not neighborly.

If only I owned a shotgun.

* * *  *

The Angry Corner

Ouch

THIS IS THE angry corner, and I have no one to blame but myself.

Every springtime the yard gets a good going-over. This entails removing lots of stuff. If it’s frozen over the winter — and it often does at night, but not so far this year — the amount of dead stuff to be cut is considerable. I do much of it myself, and then hire someone to haul it off — to somewhere.

But even during this (so far) mild winter, plants must be cut. The lower, drooping, limbs of the fan palm, nopal, lots of banana leaves, maguey fronds, which grow endlessly and cussedly.

I have taken care of most of that this season. The only place that I keep procrastinating about is the Angry Corner. Years back, I planted a sole, small banana tree, about 18 inches high. And then I planted a cute little maguey, the yellow-green one, that we bought in a nearby village. And I clipped a piece of aloe vera and stuck it into the ground one day. And let’s not forget the sole pad of nopal cactus, four or so inches high.

Flash forward a decade. The stand of banana trees simply takes up lots of space, but those other things are armed, huge, and dangerous. It’s a risk even going near. I’m trying to work up the nerve.

* * * *

Mexico City

WE’LL BE HEADING to our nation’s chaotic capitol soon for a few days. It’s a necessity. Pay some bills for our condo. Dust and mop. Air it out. See what’s changed in the neighborhood. Eat some caldo de gallina in a new restaurant just three blocks away.

And we’ll try to make some headway with getting the condo’s deed into our hands, yet again. We paid it off years ago, but it was purchased from a government agency. Many arms of Mexico City’s government have improved immensely over the years, but the agency handling our deed is mired in the inefficient past.

Don’t try any funny stuff here while we’re gone. The two rottweilers, Rolf and Rachel, will be on duty. We don’t leave food, so that keeps them hungry and on edge. It might get ugly.