Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On a REAL Strawberry

Twice already I’d been to the Vivero or Green House vendor in La Tortuga for strawberry plants. No luck. While I will not discriminate against California produced strawberries, plump and fat, but seriously lacking in flavour, juiciness, and sweetness, I am yearning for the incredible taste of connoisseur strawberries from l’Ile d’Orléans (near Québec City), the landing place in 1654 of my earliest ancestor Gabriel from Normandy, France, himself a descendant of the early Vikings who’d invaded France and the British Isles a thousand or so years ago. Anyone who has tasted strawberries from l'Ile d’Orléans will forsake all others in favour of a single one of these! Guess I’ll try once more next Saturday. While Mexican strawberry plants might not be from l’Ile d’Orléans, they’ll grow naturally without help from growth hormones or chemicals. Mine will. Perhaps then I’ll savour the real taste of a natural strawberry, my favourite fruit.

This week, Teodoro, a magnificent artisan with stones and building materials, is here to build up the stone base for a typical Mexican fence made of cement blocks. The erection of the fence itself will take place next week. In turn, it will eventually be the backdrop to a festival of all hues of bougainvilleas, trumpet vines, and others I’ll be delighted to discover. Then, if I can afford it, the bodega or shed, over the concrete platform covering the septic tank. Then, construction will have to be on hold until the fall, or until after the rainy season. But, not to worry, I’ll still have plenty to report on my blog. Meanwhile, I’m having a hard time with all the sand, cement dust, and cal dust constantly flying. They trigger serious asthma attacks.

A word about posting. One of the puppies chewed up my camera cable, the one that permits me to download photos. I had taken some of the ranchers marching their sheep and cows back from the pastures, but cannot download them. I had taken some of the ongoing construction, again no way to download them. Went to San Juan del Rio but the standards in Mexico are a bit different and the connection into the camera did not fit. Must try again next Saturday when they will have received some kind of universal multi-fittings. At least that’s what I was given to understand.

Sorry about the photos. All in good time, I guess.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Planting a Seed or Two

Ever since I’ve been in Tequisquiapan, renting a little casita close to town, I noticed how incredibly fertile the soil is in this part of the world. For example, geraniums reseed themselves, even growing in the most improbable places like a crack between two patio stones. A wonder to a Northerner’s mind. Tiny yellow flowers grow in sidewalk cracks. Vacant lots left to themselves sport all kinds of new-to-me flowers of all hues, shapes, and heights, attracting a bevy of birds, bees, and butterflies. No wonder all art and handicrafts from Mexico are chockfull of vibrant colours! They obviously aim to replicate what Nature generously gives in such abundance.

I know little about summer here, which is supposed to be the rainy season from May to September, as I’ve been here since September only; but the winter impressed the daylights out of me. Poinsettias, called Noche Buena grow to adult height. A double species even grows to the height of a lilac tree, loses its leaves, keeping only the deep red double flowers towering over fences. For the purists, I know that they are really bracts, not the real flowers, which are tiny and yellow. Did you know that poinsettias are native to Mexico? Quite a sight to behold. So I ask you, who could resist planting a garden?

Not me, no Sirree Bob! So I started with a few fruit trees. A limon, which translates as a lime tree of the small green variety and apparently one that will produce fruit without seeds. Then I prematurely planted a tiny apple tree and am a bit sorry that I did. It is barely 4 inches tall and will take eons to grow. Beyond appearing in a photo. There’s a tree mistakenly identified as a cherry tree, which finally ended up being a ciruela tree. I take it to be a small sweet red plum fruit tree. Also,  there’s a peach tree, a pear tree, and a guava tree. Oh, and blackberries. A neat tidy beginning on my small lot.

Finding seeds was altogether another matter. The closest Home Depot is in Queretaro, about 75 kms from Tequis. An odyssey. So I had to be satisfied with whatever was put up for sale here and there is only one place; a Veterinary Pharmacy with an assortment of pets, hens and roosters, hamsters, budgerigars, and even a grey parrot. I must admit going a bit crazy here. If I can afford one of the artisan-made gigantic cages sold in Bordo Blanco, I think I’ll get the parrot and settle it between fruit trees. Seeds? Oh. . .  yeah. Seeds! Sweet corn, Swiss chard, Gherkin cucumbers, both for eating fresh and pickling, sweet peppers, chives, parsley, zucchini, spinach, Cosmos (one of my favourite flowers), sweet alyssum, white irises, first time I plant irises from seeds instead of bulbs, and a few others whose name I don’t know in English.

I can’t wait until I see a green shoot sprouting from the soil.

Sorry about the photos. One of the pups chewed my camera’s wire that lets me download the pics. Will have to go to San Juan del Rio to get another one. Oh well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Seeing Double


No, you’re not seeing double; neither is it a double exposure. Explanations follow.

Last week, around 11:30 at night, I heard a puppy crying in distress together with the bark of a number of dogs apparently giving chase. I went out to check what was going on but it was pitch black without moonlight and after calling to the distressed puppy for a good twenty minutes, I gave up and came back in.

Next day, my neighbour from across the road came to me with a bundle in her arms. I did a double take thinking, “… what is she doing with my puppy in her arms?” until I looked down and saw that Mindy had been inside all the time. As Guadalupe came closer, I noticed how much smaller and skinnier this puppy was compared to Mindy. Lupe said she had found her scratching the soil in her garden looking for a bite to eat. I offered her dry puppy food and she replied that she’d give it to her but then would let her go to fend for herself. My heart went into a major flip flop and I told her I’d take the puppy in. No way this 2 month old puppy could survive by herself. Besides, Mindy had already recognized her sibling. Lupe was nonplussed and told me that I was encouraging neglect and a lackadaisical attitude towards animals, as if I hadn’t already noticed, predicting that I would be swamped with rejects from the neighbourhood. Ni modo, I replied—never mind! I’ll care for both.

And this is how I got Tina and Mindy. Tina is a bit shorter than Mindy but it may have been caused by a serious lack of nutrition. I figure that she’s the runt of the litter and was picked on by litter mates and even bigger dogs. She had a fresh bite wound on the top of her head and another on her jowl.

Queenie had a fit of jealousy when she noticed a few days after Tina’s arrival how the two played together. So now, I have to isolate Tina for a while so that Mindy can have playtime with Queenie. Tina, on the other hand, is very affectionate and Queenie basks in her licks and little bites. Ahhh. . . all is well under the sun.

PICT0018 Tina is on the left, Mindy behind her on the right. Both sleeping the sleep of the just, wouldn’t you say?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Measure of Happiness

Despite construction concerns and the training of a new puppy, or perhaps because of those? I’m kind of waxing philosophical today. The sun is high and bright in the azure sky, the wind from the west is providing a cooling breeze, all my clothes are clean and drying stretched between the four corners of the “castillos” , the metal contraptions that will eventually arm the cement corner posts of the storage shed; all couldn’t be better with the world.

The last contingent of sheep has traipsed by their way through the pasture north of the lot, Queenie has stared hard at the whole lot while Mindy tried with her high-pitched bark to intimidate the passers-by, without much success, I’m afraid.

Besides the wind flapping my clothes this way and that, and the birds chirping in the trees, there is hardly a sound attesting to the proximity of the “civilized world”, all its attendant technologies, and the myriad motorized rumbles on a nearby road feeling so distant.

Old Maria, my only neighbour, has called to me to give me a bottle of purified water, so afraid is she that my “unclean” water may make me sick. I hadn’t the heart to tell her that I have a countertop filter that serves the purpose quite well. Apparently, she isn’t known for such gestures so I wouldn’t want to thwart her budding kindness. . . Besides, I think I haven’t reached such a level of fluency in Spanish!

Am I such a simple soul that I feel I need for nothing except what I already have? I think that many years ago, I opted for happiness rather than the pursuit of pleasure, a rather transitory affair since it must always be renewed or heightened; and is costly. This I learned in the Desert Southwest and in the foothills of the Rockies. So, to paraphrase a song by Bill Miller, I offer Praises to the Creator for all that surrounds me, the Beauty of it all, and offer Thanks for my Children, and for all the Creatures that make our World such a wondrous thing to behold, and of which to be a part.

Yes, I am grateful. And happy. And wish the same to you all.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Queenie and Mindy

My big girl has been with me for almost two years now and all that I knew of her were about her numerous litters (7) during the first 5 years of her life and her placid temperament. The only exception had been the sight of another dog, which would transport her into fits of malicious intent.

Given this, I felt that I had to approach her with a bit of trepidation with a new puppy in my hands. At first she appeared lethargic, but it soon changed into an obvious interest. Despite my fears, she showed no sign of malice at all. Within a few days, she had grown into the mother that I knew was in her. There were numerous instances of intense sniffing and examining, followed with what I felt was acceptance. But I was still a bit antsy. She’s so big and powerful and the puppy is so tiny.

The relationship was soon to change into something that stunned me. Now, she is reverting to a side that I felt had been wrenched out of her by years of puppy producing. She’s actually playing! 

Mindy is at an age that I would term “Hellion on Four Paws”. So her level of energy and mischief is at an all-time high. Yet Queenie remains her placid self even though at times, she can hardly keep up with the twirling, climbing, dashing about, puppy. When the play gets too intense, all that Queenie does is either place her considerable paw on the puppy and immobilize her for a few seconds with a paw and her deep growl, or gently grab Mindy’s head in her gaping mouth and hold it for a while. Quietness resumes for a short while.

I have been ill with flu and bronchitis for a week and spent most of my time resting or looking at the dogs. I officially conclude that Mindy is a gift to Queenie who finally gets to learn to play. Will get on with photos next week.

Must go, Mindy found the toilet paper and pulled is all off the roll. . .

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Planning, Building…and Boondocking

Well, it’s official. I’m now boondocking on my own lot. I couldn’t be more delighted. Here’s the setup. I had a front loader combination back hoe and pneumatic drill dig two holes, one for a water reservoir, the other a septic tank. The tank was dropped and filled with water and surrounded by Pomex to preserve it from potential piercing hazards. Then Michel dropped a PVC tube into the tank with some gizmo (can’t remember the name) to prevent reflux, connected it to a hose that ran to my RV pump and bingo, water directly from the outside tank, which I must add is quite larger than the one in the RV. And it’s treated water. Inside, I have a countertop filter/purifier that removes 99% of solids, chemicals, and bacteria. The water tastes wonderfully pure.

Here’s a photo of the tank. Eventually it will be covered and equipped with a trapdoor. An electric pump will bring the water to the house via underground plumbing. But that will come later.


Now the septic tank is quite an affair. Measuring on the inside 3 m. X 3m by 3m. deep, it is pure tepetate, a stone material that I encountered for the first time. It crushes easily but forms a solid base for anything from a road to a tank. At a depth of about 2 feet, it was pure tepetate and a ledge about a foot thick was made by removing the rich soil for a garden. A mason combined stones with cement over the tepetate ledge. This will form a base for the tank cover. Tubes to connect with the future plumbing were strategically installed, then armed concrete bars (called viguetas) were stretched over the stone base and across the gaping hole; bovedillas or cement blocks that fit right between the bars were installed between the viguetas and concrete was poured into the whole form. This will act as the base for a shed at a future date. Right now, I have a dump site all my own right from the rig into the septic tank. Here’s what it looks like now:


You will notice that, as accredited sniffers of all things new, Queenie and Mindy are inspecting the new installation. Note the metal contraptions rising from each corner of the platform. They will serve to arm cement that will be poured at the four corners of the shed and between which cement blocks will rise to form the building.

As a final note about construction in Mexico. The people here work incredibly hard and are relentless in finishing the job. Everything, or almost everything, is done by hand. And the constructions are solid stone and concrete, even all the way up to roofs. I’m not worried about an earthquake here. Even the septic tank would survive unless it opened from the bottom up. Then I pity those on the other side. . .

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